Former FDIC chair Sheila Bair makes the following provocative proposal:
For several years now, the Fed has been making money available to the financial sector at near-zero interest rates. Big banks and hedge funds, among others, have taken this cheap money and invested it in securities with high yields. This type of profit-making, called the “carry trade,” has been enormously profitable for them.
So why not let everyone participate?
Under my plan, each American household could borrow $10 million from the Fed at zero interest. The more conservative among us can take that money and buy 10-year Treasury bonds. At the current 2 percent annual interest rate, we can pocket a nice $200,000 a year to live on. The more adventuresome can buy 10-year Greek debt at 21 percent, for an annual income of $2.1 million. Or if Greece is a little too risky for you, go with Portugal, at about 12 percent, or $1.2 million dollars a year. (No sense in getting greedy.)
Because we will be making money in basically the same way as hedge fund managers, we should have to pay only 15 percent in taxes, just like they do. And since we will be earning money through investments, not work, we won’t have to pay Social Security taxes or Medicare premiums. That means no more money will go into these programs, but so what? No one will need them anymore, with all the cash we’ll be raking in thanks to our cheap loans from the Fed.
I’d take this one step further: At the end of the ten-year period, declare an old-timey, Biblically-sanctified Debt Jubilee.
Yes, former Chair Bair is speaking very satirically — her proposal is actually a Swiftian attack on, among other things, the ways that the Wall Streeters were and are allowed to profit from our misery — but really, is it any worse than what has actually been done in the name of shoring up capitalism?