Take this weekend off, Hank

Comrade_paulsonToday’s MSM article worth reviewing is a pair of opinion pieces from across the pond: The first is the delightfully titled Take this weekend off, Hank:

“I do not know what plans Hank Paulson, the US Treasury secretary, has for the weekend. Bird-watching, perhaps. Whatever they are, may I suggest that he sticks to them?

Mr Paulson is a keen ornithologist but he is also an energetic intervener in financial markets and, when he has worked on weekends recently, the US taxpayer has paid dearly.

In March, it was a line of funding to steer Bear Stearns, the investment bank, into the hands of JPMorgan Chase. On Sunday, it was the bail-out of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the quasi-public mortgage lenders, which could cost the US government $200bn (€143bn, £114bn) or more.

It is only Thursday and, already, others seem to be preparing to interrupt his days of rest again.”

The entire article is similarly snarky.

The next bit of Brit opinion worthy of your attention is the Times’ We’re all capitalists now? Not any longer:

“Their failure has been so obvious, that even the most capitalist administration ever, in the world’s most capitalist country, had decided to wipe out the private owners of its biggest and most important financial companies and replace them with state-appointed bureaucrats.

The reasons for these failures – related, ironically, to the dogmatic belief among regulators, politicians and financiers that “the market is always right” – have been much discussed. Much less widely considered have been the consequences of this justifiable disillusionment with market forces.

Even more than the mind-boggling $5,500 billion size of the two US mortgage companies, it was the political significance of their nationalisation that marked it out as an historic turning point. This was, after all, the biggest expropriation of private property undertaken by a government outside the former communist world, yet there was absolutely no protest, nor even discussion, about the terms imposed by the US Treasury.

Viewed from across the Atlantic, where nationalisations of relatively unimportant industries such as steel, shipbuilding or coal provoked years of parliamentary opposition and legal argument, it seems astonishing that the US Government could simply announce itself as the owner of these giant companies, wiping out overnight some $20 billion of shareholder wealth. But what is even more significant is that nobody in American politics or business objected to this anti-capitalist coup.

This lack of any serious debate about the sudden fate of Fannie and Freddie may help to stabilise the US economy and housing market in the months ahead, since American homeowners should soon enjoy a potentially unlimited supply of government-financed mortgages. But the effects of this nationalisation on
the future of the world financial system will be more far-reaching and profound.”

True dat.

More on Lehman later today . . .


Take this weekend off, Hank
By John Gapper
Published: September 10 2008 19:15 | Last updated: September 10 2008 19:15

We’re all capitalists now? Not any longer
An historic turning point has been reached: the West is ditching its faith in free markets and private enterprise
Anatole Kaletsky
Times September 12, 2008

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