The NYT is running a piece in which economists (and others) propose questions for Tim Geitner. My favorite questions come from Anna Schwartz:
1. Ordinary taxpayers would like an answer to this question: Why have they been billed more than $45 billion to rescue Citigroup from failure when, as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, you were its primary supervisor? Three major problems led to Citigroup’s downfall: bad investment policy; overexpansion, which overwhelmed Citigroup’s management; and an inadequate capital base. Why was Citigroup’s supervision inadequate to deal with these problems?
2. The Treasury and Federal Reserve have been selecting which companies in American industry and finance will get taxpayer money. What criteria do you use to decide?
3. During the banking crisis of the late 1980s, assets of failed savings and loans were acquired by the government’s Resolution Trust Corporation. The trust corporation then sold off the assets in an orderly fashion. Would you consider requesting Congress to revive the Resolution Trust Corporation, so you would not have to decide which companies to save and which not to save? Would you consider re-establishing the trust corporation now for commercial banks that are likely to fail?
— ANNA JACOBSON SCHWARTZ, an economist at the National Bureau of Economic Research and the author, with Milton Friedman, of “A Monetary History of the United States, 1867 to 1960”