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Sunday, February 13, 2011

TARP and Foreclosures: A Matter of Misplaced Priorities

Neil Kashkari wrote up the U.S. Treasury department’s Break the Glass Bank Recapitalization Plan in April, 2008—months before the financial crisis—as a “just in case.” It was essentially the TARP program.  Karshkari states in his plan that governmental purchases of toxic mortgage-based assets would do “nothing to help homeowners without [there being] a complimentary program.” He notes that should there be a crisis, “there would be enormous political pressure” for relief going to homeowners in trouble.  Considering the noted downside to his plan, he may have viewed any such pressure from “the masses” as a problem to be ignored rather than even assuaged.  He also admits in his plan that it would provide “no guarantee banks [would] resume lending.”  It is odd that his was made explicit yet not dealt with.  He does gloss an alternative option (C) that would involve refinancing the troubled mortgages, though he assumes a (needlessly cumbersome) case by case basis and that the servicers would determine which loans to put into the program.  The culprits could opt out to insist on the higher payments. In other words, Kashkari was assuming that the government shouldn’t or couldn’t force the banks to take write-downs.  As a former Goldman Sachs man himself (like his boss at the time, Henry Paulson), Kashkari probably didn’t want to propose anything that the bankers wouldn’t view as being in their interest.

The full essay is at "TARP and Foreclosures."