Monday, February 9, 2009

John Taylor on the government's handling of the crisis

John Taylor has been an outspoken critic of the Fed and Treasury responses to the financial crisis. Here is an excerpt from Prof. Taylor's commentary in today's Wall Street Journal:
Many have argued that the reason for this bad turn was the government's decision not to prevent the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers over the weekend of Sept. 13 and 14. A study of this event suggests that the answer is more complicated and lay elsewhere.

While interest rate spreads increased slightly on Monday, Sept. 15, they stayed in the range observed during the previous year, and remained in that range through the rest of the week. On Friday, Sept. 19, the Treasury announced a rescue package, though not its size or the details. Over the weekend the package was put together, and on Tuesday, Sept. 23, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson testified before the Senate Banking Committee. They introduced the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), saying that it would be $700 billion in size. A short draft of legislation was provided, with no mention of oversight and few restrictions on the use of the funds.

The two men were questioned intensely and the reaction was quite negative, judging by the large volume of critical mail received by many members of Congress. It was following this testimony that one really begins to see the crisis deepening and interest rate spreads widening.

The realization by the public that the government's intervention plan had not been fully thought through, and the official story that the economy was tanking, likely led to the panic seen in the next few weeks. And this was likely amplified by the ad hoc decisions to support some financial institutions and not others and unclear, seemingly fear-based explanations of programs to address the crisis. What was the rationale for intervening with Bear Stearns, then not with Lehman, and then again with AIG? What would guide the operations of the TARP?

It did not have to be this way. To prevent misguided actions in the future, it is urgent that we return to sound principles of monetary policy, basing government interventions on clearly stated diagnoses and predictable frameworks for government actions.

Massive responses with little explanation will probably make things worse. That is the lesson from this crisis so far.
RW: The article is based on his paper, "The Financial Crisis and the Policy Responses: An Empirical Analysis of What Went Wrong". I agree. Transparency in policy measures - or lack thereof - has likely hindered the effectiveness of Fed and Treasury responses to the financial crisis.

Rebecca Wilder


  1. You're so right there Rebecca.

    No one wants to play a game when the game makers won't tell the rules or when the game makers change the rules during the game.

    Hiding rules, changing rules -- this wrecks a game player's strategy.

    In short, a game player cannot expect to win because changing rules render ineffective his strategy and thus is tactics (plays).

    It's game over. The Political Class of Congresses, Major Bankers, Federal Reserve Bankers, Oligopoly CEOs, U.S. Presidents; these fellows ruined the economy and the USA.

    A quick, deep economic depression followed by clear rules for all going forward is the only way to fix the USA.

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