Debating the Geithner Plan

24geithner.480 Paul Krugman, Simon Johnson, Brad DeLong and Mark Thoma in the NYT. Simon Johnson:

There are already several trillions of troubled assets to deal with and this total may rise as we head deeper into recession. The Geithner plan needs to scale up in order to have real impact, but as it gets bigger the political backlash will grow.

This kind of complex market-based scheme makes scams easy. After less than 24 hours, the Internet already abounds with detailed and plausible proposals regarding how to take unreasonable advantage of the plan, either if you are an independent hedge fund buying toxic assets or the employee of a bank selling the same or – ideally – someone with connections to both.

Banks, hedge funds, insurance companies and the like are willing to stay involved only if this does not bring onerous additional government scrutiny. As scams become more apparent – and it only ever takes one or two prominent examples – controls will be tightened and private sector participation will fall off.