October 14, 2010

Question For Readers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Russell Bangs @ 7:41 am


I’m going to quote somebody, and I’m interested in what people’s impression is of the quote and the person who wrote it.
I’ll reveal who it is and give a link afterward, but first I want to see what people think before they know who it is. (It’s from May, BTW).

Now as for TARP, I have some background in economics. I took two years of econ as an undergraduate business major, including a memorable semester of macroeconomic theory from an anti-Keynesian young turk. I also had a semester course in corporate finance. So I probably had some sort of a handle on the crisis that hit the American financial sector in the summer of 2008. I believed that the economy would plunge into a deep depression if the major banks failed and credit virtually disappeared. It was difficult to imagine where the dominoes would stop falling as one sector after another collapsed. And I haven’t heard anyone who has criticized TARP acknowledge what would have happened if the government had not stepped in.

In the case of TARP, I’ve only heard of one economist who said the government should not step in. The experts seemed virtually unanimous, and what they said made sense to me. It was also true that the Bush administration, including the secretary of the treasury, and the Democratic nominee, Barrack Obama, and his economic advisers agreed TARP had to happen. True, most of the Republicans in Congress voted against it, but their reasons seemed short-sighted to me. I didn’t like the idea of bailing out the banks any more than Sen. McConnell did. But I thought it was more important to keep the economy from collapsing.

I think you’ll find, by the way, that a lot of the TARP loans have already been paid back, and in one way or another, most of the government investment will return to the treasury.


  1. just a hunch, but ill guess obama…

    Comment by rjs — October 14, 2010 @ 8:34 am

  2. Tax cheat Geithner’s mother-in-law? Appears not overly bright.

    Comment by chas — October 14, 2010 @ 8:39 am

  3. Neat, a mystery..
    Humm… could I say something intelligent about this quote EVEN IF.. I don’t know what “tarp” is ??
    Challenges, challenges.
    Going for the bait…
    Diagnosis : Dull and earnest crew cut harboring, early 40’s upper middle class alumnus of an Ivy League school (male of course) who would also laugh at English majors (looking into my crystal ball here…) should have been reading Shakespeare, or other pertinent sources rather than surfing through on macroeconomics 101 “to get a handle” on the situation.
    Even a good history course would be better than THAT.
    Relying on self proclaimed “experts” and not on your own neurons (delicately formed by reading Rousseau, and, of course… Shakespeare) is a sign of advanced infantilisation of the general population in the U.S., even among the “elites”.
    Last, but not least, an abysmal command of the beautiful English language, reduced to dry sounding platitudes, in the mouth of someone who will always be… A FOLLOWER anyway.
    How am I doing ?
    No names. I don’t know anybody in the mother country these days…

    Comment by Debra — October 14, 2010 @ 8:40 am

    • The TARP is the high-profile legislated part of the Bailout.

      The government and the MSM have long propagated the fraud that the TARP and the Bailout are synonymous, when in fact the TARP is a small, limited part of the vast, unlimited Bailout.

      Part of what’s so ironic about this quote is that the author has evidently swallowed this propaganda: hook, line, and sinker.

      (So there’s a clue: He’s not a propagator, except in the useful idiot sense.)

      Comment by Russ — October 14, 2010 @ 10:45 am

  4. It wasn’t Obama because he was referenced in the post, and it does’nt sound like him in any case. It”s an empty bit of drivel that seeks to find authority from academia (“in my hoary college days”) and from some gaggle of stooge economists, academia again. The idea that TARP (TRAP) was necessary only makes sense if one thinks the survival of the predatory big banks is essential, which is a nonsense. In the meantime I can only say that I don’t have a bead on who owns the quote.

    Comment by Edwardo — October 14, 2010 @ 9:25 am

  5. Debra and Edwardo are on the scent, anticipating the irony of the answer. I’ll post the answer tomorrow.

    I don’t suppose anyone is likely to guess it right, unless they’ve actually read the thread I’m quoting from.

    But probably at least some of you are familiar with the author.

    Comment by Russ — October 14, 2010 @ 10:41 am

  6. Heh, well, at least we know it’s a man. Which means my first guess of Megan McArdle can’t be right.

    Ezra Klein, Nate Silver? I really hope it ain’t Greenwald but I have a feeling that’s where you might be going…

    Comment by jimmy james — October 14, 2010 @ 11:08 am

  7. You have to admit sometimes…
    I think it would actually be preferable to deal with people who are truly… evil masterminds than this kind of Casper Milquetoast, dull, crew cut, earnest sounding, “go west young man” personality.
    And I’m afraid that I definitely see MANY FEWER of those evil masterminds wandering around the U.S. these days than most people on the economic blogs have spotted.
    Demagoguery and populism do not go hand in hand with cunning scullduggery.

    Comment by Debra — October 14, 2010 @ 11:15 am

    • Oops, skullduggery with a “k”. Gotta mind my “p”‘s and “q”‘s.. My English is going to hell (in a basket).

      Comment by Debra — October 14, 2010 @ 3:21 pm

  8. In the quote, the speaker is asserting two things as true that are categorically false.

    First, the speaker asserts the only choice was for the government either to implement TARP or do nothing. In fact, at the time, there were many economists, including Roubini, Krugman and maybe Johnson, who were calling for “nationalization” (they really meant putting the banks into receivership and winding them down a la Sweden). When you don’t know the size of the smoking hole of debt you’re trying to fill, you don’t just start throwing money at it, like we did with TARP. The banks should have been put into receivership then, and they should be now.

    Second, the speaker asserts that TARP represents the sum total of what was done to bailout the banks and, thus, vastly underestimates the costs to tax payers. What about the $1.5 trillion that was borrowed by Treasury and turned into bank reserves that the Fed pays 3% interest on (until two years ago, no interest was paid on reserves)? What about the first round of quantitative easing (which I think was another $500B at least), and the second round, which people like Krugman think has to be on the order of $8 trillion to have its desired effect? We will be paying for the bailout of the banks for at least a decade or two.

    I agree that the speaker is probably Obama, which tells me that he made the assertions knowing they were false. He’s just mouthing a carefully crafted message that amounts to little more than what Cop #2 in a crime drama might mutter: “Move along. Nothing to see here.”

    Comment by Tao Jonesing — October 14, 2010 @ 11:34 am

    • Hmmmm. I should have read the other comments before guessing.

      Let’s try again: Robert Reich.

      I was thinking of Thomas Friedman at first, but he would not have felt compelled to refer to his “anti-Keynesian” professor because everybody knows he takes after his “uncle” Milty. Only a liberal identified with Keynesian ideas would say something like that.

      Comment by Tao Jonesing — October 14, 2010 @ 11:41 am

      • I’m going to go back to Tom Friedman.

        Tom Friedman. Final answer.

        Comment by Tao Jonesing — October 14, 2010 @ 5:19 pm

  9. Ok, my WAG is Matthew Yglesias. The quote has the ring of his unique pomposity.

    Comment by Frank A. — October 14, 2010 @ 11:46 am

  10. The quote sure is pompous, and it is from a liberal, but it’s not the kind of person you guys are guessing.

    I gave a clue above: What this person is known for is such that this quote is highly ironic.

    The quote was directed at me when I challenged his not applying his own method to Obama cultism.

    (I sure hope people know who he is when I name him since I don’t want it to be an anti-climax. He’s often cited in comment threads.)

    Comment by Russ — October 14, 2010 @ 12:05 pm

  11. Simon Johnson?

    Comment by jimmy james — October 14, 2010 @ 12:24 pm

    • Or maybe his partner, Kwak?

      I’ll just keep guessing everyone in popular economics!

      Comment by jimmy james — October 14, 2010 @ 12:27 pm

  12. I was thinking Bill Clinton before reading the clues here. Now I have no idea.

    Comment by EmilianoZ — October 14, 2010 @ 12:44 pm

  13. Nope, it’s not an overt system liar.

    The reason I posed the puzzle is because we often ponder conformity and marvel in disgust at how the Obamabaggers are just as tribal and moronic as the Bushbaggers.

    (Is the term Bushbagger sufficiently descriptive and contemptuous without unnecessarily smearing a tea partier if he truly rejects the Republicans?)

    So if someone’s basically made a career out of analyzing idiot conformity among Republican supporters, and then turns right around and becomes a walking example of everyone he ever wrote about when Obama comes into office, I thought that might be of interest.

    I’ll post the whole exchange tomorrow morning.

    Comment by Russ — October 14, 2010 @ 4:28 pm

    • Hmmm. So I was on the scent with Reich, but it has to be a lefty critic of righty conformity (which Reich is not).

      Glenn Greenwald and Kos are primary candidates, now. Pretty sure the person is male.

      Comment by Tao Jonesing — October 14, 2010 @ 5:29 pm

      • It’s not Friedman, who I would define as a system liar anyway.

        It’s not Greenwald, who’s actually been good at pegging Democratic tribalism.

        And it’s not Kos, with whose site I have only minimal personal experience. (I’ve heard almost all bad things, and the few times I went there it looked like a real mess.)

        Here’s a last clue – since you read Sheldon Wolin, you might have read this person as well. I can picture at least a basic affinity, although the focus is probably different.

        Comment by Russ — October 14, 2010 @ 6:48 pm

  14. Russ Feingold.

    Comment by tawal — October 15, 2010 @ 2:52 am

    • Sorry. He voted Nay on TARP. Robert Menendez.

      Comment by tawal — October 15, 2010 @ 3:04 am

  15. I know, but only because I cheated!

    Comment by Kevin de Bruxelles — October 15, 2010 @ 3:03 am

    • What did you do, enter the text as a search? Yeah, that’s cheating. We’re gonna have to fit you for a bankster suit. 🙂

      Comment by Russ — October 15, 2010 @ 4:08 am

      • Yep — I have the cheating skills of a banksta but I never seem to manage to get paid like one!

        Comment by Kevin de Bruxelles — October 15, 2010 @ 7:03 am

  16. LOL. Fun thread.
    Gotta do more quizzes there…

    Comment by Debra — October 16, 2010 @ 12:39 pm

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