Economist Brad DeLong weighs in with a brilliantly clear explanation of the Geithner Plan. The most interesting part is where he compares the economics of the plan to the costs of hiring hedge fund managers on the standard 2% management fee/20% carry system.
You should read the whole thing, but the first two paragraphs alone are worth the price of admission:
Q: What is the Geithner Plan? A: The Geithner Plan is a trillion-dollar operation by which the U.S. acts as the world’s largest hedge fund investor, committing its money to funds to buy up risky and distressed but probably fundamentally undervalued assets and, as patient capital, holding them either until maturity or until markets recover so that risk discounts are normal and it can sell them off–in either case at an immense profit. Q: What if markets never recover, the assets are not fundamentally undervalued, and even when held to maturity the government doesn’t make back its money? A: Then we have worse things to worry about than government losses on TARP-program money–for we are then in a world in which the only things that have value are bottled water, sewing needles, and ammunition.I hope that the Geithner Plan works. Just in case, I’m stocking up on sewing needles. I already have plenty of the other two items.