And Another Thing We Need to "Fix"
CBO warns that the bailout may acellerate the collapse of financial institutions by putting a market price on formerly hidden garbage, forcing big writedowns, and starting yet another capital death spiral.
Going to need to "fix" accounting rules to allow these outfits to not mark this stuff to market?
The director of the Congressional Budget Office said yesterday that the proposed Wall Street bailout could actually worsen the current financial crisis.
During testimony before the House Budget Committee, Peter R. Orszag -- Congress's top bookkeeper -- said the bailout could expose the way companies are stowing toxic assets on their books, leading to greater problems.
"Ironically, the intervention could even trigger additional failures of large institutions, because some institutions may be carrying troubled assets on their books at inflated values," Orszag said in his testimony. "Establishing clearer prices might reveal those institutions to be insolvent."
In an interview later yesterday, Orszag explained using the following example: Suppose a company has Asset X, whose value is recorded on the books as $100. Because of the current economic decline, Asset X's real value has dropped to $50. If the company takes part in the government bailout and sells Asset X for $50, the company has to report a $50 loss on its books. On a scale of millions of dollars, such write-downs could ruin a company.
Such companies "look solvent today only because it's kind of hidden," Orszag said. "They actually are insolvent" already, he said.