Obama eyes Swedish model for US banks

First off, let me just say that I have nothing against Swedish models. In fact, I’ve eyed quite a few of them myself over the years.


But since we’re talking about the Obama Administration, some reservations might be in order. The “Swedish model” involves the temporary nationalization of banks in order to clean up their books.

Almost twenty years ago, Sweden’s economy plunged into a deep recession that was caused by the collapse of its banking system, which in turn was precipitated by the bursting of a lengthy real estate bubble that lasted through most of the 1980’s. For several years, the Swedish government tried to prop up banks by loaning them money and guaranteeing against the loss of toxic assets. The economy refused to cooperate, and remained in a slump.

Then in 1992, the Swedish government announced a bold move: It was taking over the banks that had received the largest shares of government money. The government would manage their reorganization. Assets would be sold off in order to provide liquidity for borrowers. And once the banks were back in the black, the government would once again sell ownership of the banks to private investors.

The plan worked very well for Sweden. Its recession ended, its banks were financially sound, and through the proceeds collected from the sale of debts and bank shares, the Swedish government actually recouped a significant portion of the money that had been used to prop up the banks. Today Sweden’s banks are majority-owned by private investors, though the government still owns portions of the nation’s largest banks.

The Obama Administration seems to be considering a similar plan for American banks. There are good reasons for it, too. First (and most obvious) is that the Paulson/Bernanke bailout plan has fallen flat. And Timothy “Boy Wonder” Geithner’s recent “Bailout II – Federal Boogaloo” plan has been met with similar derision.

The specter of Japan is also haunting monetary policymakers. During the 1990’s, Japan tried to jump-start its economy with a seemingly endless series of stimulus plans, infrastructure projects, and treasury bond issues. All the Japanese got in return was the largest public debt in the developed world. Even though Japan is flush with cool miniature electronic gadgets, its economy is still in the doldrums.

And let’s not forget that Obama himself was just rolled by the Reid-Pelosi Porkulus juggernaut that essentially forced him to break every campaign promise he made regarding the transparency and accountability that he was supposed to bring to the Federal government. The American people are not happy with this bill. Only a third of them think that it will do any good at all. And Obama’s attempts at “bipartisanship” (think: ‘I won’) were laughable at best. He is hurting politically right now, and he needs a victory badly. A fresh plan to shore up our banking system might do that for him.

Curiously, prominent Republicans (specifically Lindsey Graham and John McCain) seem to also be interested in a temporary nationalization of banks. I would assume that they are more drawn toward the “temporary” part of the plan, whereas Democrats would be more attracted to the “nationalization” aspect.

Of course we all know that there is no such thing as “temporary” when the Federal government is involved. And bank nationalization would place an incredible amount of power into the hands of the government. Our current Congress obviously cannot be trusted to manage bank assets properly, and would you trust Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, and Chris Dodd with voluntarily relinquishing Federal control of our banks once in had been established?

I’m not opposed to the idea of what would be essentially a government-managed bankruptcy for many of our bloated financial institutions, provided that we had some kind of a real guarantee that private ownership would eventually be restored. I also think that such a plan should be implemented at GM and Chrysler. But a real guarantee of a return to private ownership won’t happen without Republican control of at least one house of Congress.

That’s another reason to vote Republican in 2010.

ADDED: Regarding the girls, the photo is from a visit by the Swedish Bikini Team to a Southwest Pistol League/Force .45 shooting match back in July 2001. More info about that visit, including photos, is here. Google will tell you all you need to know about the Swedish Bikini Team.

If you drive a car, I'll tax the street. If you cop a squat, I'll tax your seat. If you get too cold, I'll tax the heat.
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