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September 24, 2008

Call On Me! Call On Me!

I know the answer!

The New York Times explains here how Sweden dealt with the early nineties collapse of a real estate bubble very similar to ours, but wonders why we're not following their advice:

Sweden took a different course than the one now being proposed by the United States Treasury. And Swedish officials say there are lessons from their own nightmare that Washington may be missing.

Sweden did not just bail out its financial institutions by having the government take over the bad debts. It extracted pounds of flesh from bank shareholders before writing checks. Banks had to write down losses and issue warrants to the government...

The tumultuous events of the last few weeks have produced a lot of tight-lipped nods in Stockholm. Mr. Lundgren even made the rounds in New York in early September, explaining what the country did in the early 1990s.

A few American commentators have proposed that the United States government extract equity from banks as a price for their rescue. But it does not seem to be under serious consideration yet in the Bush administration or Congress.

The reason is not quite clear.

The reason is actually very clear: Sweden is a first world democracy, where the people at the top feel a sense of responsibility to the rest of society, and the rest of society has the power to hold them accountable. The United States is more and more like a third world kleptocracy, where the people in charge have no interest other than looting the country, and no one has the power to stop them.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at September 24, 2008 01:35 AM

Dodd's plan in the Senate demands a 1:1 equity to security ratio, for whatever the Senate is worth. House Dems don't seem to understand what's going on, far as I can tell when I call my congressperson's office.

Posted by: buermann at September 24, 2008 02:20 AM

I love me those Vikings. They went from being unshaven barbarians to the creators of the modern welfare state. Their ancestors all smile in Valhalla!

Posted by: En Ming Hee at September 24, 2008 02:39 AM

For what it's worth, Bill Clinton was on the Daily Show tonight, using the same talking points as Obama's mentioned above. Could it be? Could the Dems actually be displaying a degree of organization on this? Clinton carries weight w/most voters on the economy, so Obama using him is the smart campaign/message move. Of course, the second Sweden is mentioned, the Repubs will go on the anti-Socialism warpath. So shhhhh, Rush Limbaugh might hear you!

Posted by: notanon at September 24, 2008 03:15 AM

"Of course, the second Sweden is mentioned, the Repubs will go on the anti-Socialism warpath"

Perhaps that will be the time to remind them that their "free-market" rule book states that the market corrects excesses. Where do trillion dollar government bailouts come into the equation?

Posted by: Coldtype at September 24, 2008 07:08 AM

This is a start.

Posted by: me at September 24, 2008 07:23 AM
...and no one has the power to stop them.

I attribute this to the cult of individualism that is fostered in the US and some of the other western countries.

It is a very effective method that precludes cooperation or group goals (Thanks Ayn!) by the masses. But an individual effort is regarded as futile in changing the course of events unless they're willing to strap on a vest or some such extreme measure.

Of course, the kleptocracy would not be able to work if everyone was that committed to individualism; surely, the top tier knows the value of a good conspiracy made to look like business case. The best conspiracies are carried out in the open and supported by an aggressive marketing plan.

Posted by: Labiche at September 24, 2008 09:16 AM

More accurately, a second world kleptocracy.

Posted by: Mark at September 24, 2008 11:08 AM

"ACCOUNTABILITY" is not in the lexicon of THE POWERFUL and THE RICH in our society. Their philosophy is " What is MINE, is MINE and what is YOURS, IS ALSO MINE"!

Posted by: Rupa Shah at September 24, 2008 03:05 PM

How about we REWARD those not fooled by the lure of a quick buck on Wall Street, and let these places crash and burn? I have NO MONEY invested in the stock market, in a 401k plan, or otherwise. I save my own money, and don't depend on evil businesses to get ahead. If we hold true to capitalism, everyone else should loose their retirement, but I'll still have my money.

But do I get a reward for thinking ahead, and not participating in this version of legalized gambling? No. No, I do not.

Posted by: Christopher Wing at September 24, 2008 04:02 PM

And it looks pretty much like they've fucked it up. Again.

No need for conspiracies, Labiche. 200 years or so of work has gone into setting up the laws in the right way to make sure just enough money dribbles out to influential, "in the know" middle class people (the richer than 60% to richer than 80% range, or thereabouts). Grease those palms, and it all takes care of itself (or at least the richer than 80%, especially the richer than 99%). The more recent decitizenization of the working classes (a.k.a. outsourcing and illegal employment) is a big help, too.

Posted by: me at September 24, 2008 08:14 PM

In the news the clever people like George Stephenopoulos keep telling us boobs that we can't afford to not bail out the financiers,and the "danger of doing nothing" is breathlessly offered to us, again and again, as axiomatic.

But what about the "danger of doing something?"

Well, we got into this mess because of questionable loans that were too highly leveraged, or so pretty much everybody says. So what about the danger of the government and taxpayers becoming too highly leveraged?

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at September 24, 2008 09:01 PM

It ain't rape when YOU give it away.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at September 24, 2008 09:10 PM
So what about the danger of the government and taxpayers becoming too highly leveraged?

Don't worry. The government's too big to fail. :-)

Posted by: Labiche at September 24, 2008 09:39 PM

when the revolution comes, who will be first against the wall?

Posted by: almostinfamous at September 25, 2008 01:50 AM