As Congress works over the weekend attempting to overcome partisanship and presidential election year maneuvering to pass the financial bailout bill, we continue to question the lack of leadership in Washington D.C. According to the Associated Press this morning, the bailout bill which was three pages in length a week ago now totals 42 pages, so the bill has increased in its length and complexity by 14x. In that period, Washington Mutual has gone bankrupt, which is largest bank failure in United States history.

We have reservations about government led bailouts in general, but our analysis of global credit markets continues to indicate that credit markets are tightening and the crisis will continue without some form of intervention. So our issue is not with the concept of intervention, but rather the leadership of the intervention. We have one suggestion - Paul Volcker.

In our opinion, the 6’7, cigar chomping Princeton graduate is the best hope for leadership in this crisis and both parties should come together to name him “Bailout Czar” with the role of managing the disposition of the $700BN+ mortgage securities that the U.S. government is about to take on its balance sheet.

As we have said repeatedly, facts don’t lie, people do. And the facts in regards to Volcker’s ability to manage through a prior fiscal crisis with integrity and against popular opinion speak for themselves. Volcker is rightfully credited with ending the United States’ stagflation crisis of the 1970s. Chairman Volcker abandoned interest rate targeting and adopted policy to limit the growth of money supply. His policies led to a sharp recession and were widely unpopular, but inflation which peaked at 13.5% in 1981 was 3.2% by 1983. Volcker was decisive, unpopular, but ultimately more right than any economic leader has ever been.

The only real issue with this proposal is that Volcker is as an advisor to Presidential candidate Barak Obama; so the Republicans would likely be reluctant to approve Volcker for the position. We would just remind partisan Republicans that the Democrat Volcker was appointed by President Carter in 1979 and reappointed by Ronald Reagan in 1983, an election year. As Treasury Secretary, Donald Reagan, said at the time of Volcker’s reappointment: “He’s the right man at the right time.”

While Hank Paulson getting down on both a proverbial and actual knee to ostensibly pander for bipartisan support for the “Paulson Plan” is an interesting image; and while we have no doubt Paulson is a “good man”, we just think it is once again time for “the right man”.

Daryl Jones
Managing Director
Research Edge LLC