It has been 10 years since the federal government took emergency actions in response to the financial crisis of 2008. Were those expensive interventions good investments? Or were they just bailouts for wealthy bankers?
Many economists believe that the policies—including the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, and others—were necessary to avert even greater economic harm. But consensus remains elusive. Some argue that even more aggressive rescue policies were called for. Others claim that more institutions should have been allowed to fail.
Popular perceptions are also mixed. A common narrative is that ordinary taxpayers were forced to pay trillions of dollars to rescue rich bankers. Others cite tallies showing net costs to taxpayers that were modest or even negative, because the money was paid back. Certainly, political distaste for the bailouts influenced key provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act of 2011, which made sweeping changes to the regulatory landscape with the stated intent of forever ending bailouts.
Perhaps the most fundamental question about bailouts is whether and when their benefits justify their costs. This is not an easy question to answer, but accurate cost assessment is also essential to address other questions: Did the likely benefits of the policy justify the expense? Could the benefits have been achieved at a lower cost?
Drawing on existing cost estimates and augmenting those with new calculations, I conclude that the total direct cost on a fair-value basis of crisis-related bailouts in the U.S. was about $498 billion. My analysis imposes the discipline of a fair-value approach, which incorporates the uncertainty about the size of eventual losses at the time assistance was extended and the cost of that risk. By contrast, popular accounts simply add up realized cash flows or tally total risk exposures.
That cost is big enough to raise serious questions about whether taxpayers could have been better protected. At the same time, it is small enough to ask whether Dodd-Frank’s goal of eliminating bailouts entirely justifies the costs it has imposed on financial institutions, and suggests revisiting some of the regulations that were hastily put into place after the crisis.
“Are new regulations creating new problems for the housing market?”
“Has the federal government now become the subprime market?”
“Could the financial crisis happen again any time soon?”
These were just a few of the questions tackled by Deborah Lucas, the Distinguished Professor of Finance at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and the Director of the MIT Golub Center for Finance and Policy, during the #MITSloanExperts Twitter chat on October 30.
Joined by host Amy Resnick, editor of Pensions & Investments, she asked Lucas questions about the future of financial regulation and housing market finance reform, as well as ideas for fostering stronger ties between the regulatory and the academic communities.
Did you miss the chat? That’s OK, but we’ve encapsulated everything in the Storify below.
Deborah Lucas, the Distinguished Professor of Finance at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Golub Center for Finance and Policy, will discuss the 10-year anniversary of the financial crisis during an #MITSloanExperts Twitter chat on October 30 at 12 p.m. EDT.
As the 10-year anniversary of the great financial crisis approaches, Lucas will focus on answering what have we learned and whether we have made enough progress to prevent a repeat of something similar. Lucas’ recent research has focused on measuring and accounting for the costs and risks of government financial obligations. Her academic publications cover a wide range of topics including the effect of idiosyncratic risk on asset prices and portfolio choice, dynamic models of corporate finance, financial institutions, monetary economics, and valuation of government guarantees. An expert on federal credit programs, she has testified before Congress on budgeting for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, student loans, and on strategically important financial institutions.
The host of the chat will be Amy Resnick, editor of Pensions & Investments. Resnick will ask Lucas questions about the future of financial regulation and housing market finance reform, as well as ideas for fostering stronger ties between the regulatory and the academic communities.
To join the chat, be on Twitter on October 30 at 12 p.m. ET and follow the hashtag #MITSloanExperts. Questions can be submitted in advance or in real-time, using #MITSloanExperts.
Former SEC Chief Economist and MIT Golub Center Senior Fellow Chester Spatt
Our latest installment of the MIT Sloan Experts Series includes a live conversation with former SEC Chief Economist and MIT Golub Center Senior Fellow Chester Spattand Golub Center Director and Professor of Finance Deborah Lucas.
As the 10-year anniversary of the great financial crisis approaches, the program seeks to answer two questions: what have we learned? And have we made enough progress to prevent a repeat of something similar? Chester and Deborah will discuss financial regulation and housing market finance reform, and share their ideas for fostering stronger ties between the regulatory and the academic communities and what lies ahead
MIT Sloan Prof. and Golub Center Director Deborah Lucas
Laurie Goodman,co-director of the Housing Finance Policy Center at the Urban Institute also appears on the program to talk about the housing shortage and housing finance reform.
Doug Criscitello, Executive Director of MIT’s Center for Finance and Policy
High rates of debt growth by local governments are a cause for concern in any country. In China, where recent turmoil in the equity and foreign-exchange markets has put a spotlight on that country’s economy and growth prospects, increasing levels of borrowing by provincial and other lower levels of government has resulted in local indebtedness rising nearly four-fold since 2008, reaching about 40% of GDP.
Debt growth of that magnitude raises concerns about fiscal sustainability, debt affordability, transparency and accountability. Cautionary tales abound. From New York City in the ‘70s, emerging market countries in the ‘80s, Russia in the ‘90s, and Detroit, Greece and Puerto Rico more recently, there is a long list of governments that have experienced the painful economic repercussions of taking on debt they could not afford.
While the massive debt buildup in China presents challenges, the situation is not as dire as a full-blown debt crisis, a new policy brief from the MIT Center for Finance and Policy by Xun Wu, a visiting scholar, suggests.