On TV: I get all populist on PBS

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I’m the commentator tonight on the Nightly Business Report on PBS, which airs at 6:30 p.m. here in New York and whenever PBS says its on in your hometown. I talk about Fannie and Freddie and Bear and bailouts and such. For some reason I feel awkward posting the script now, before the segment has aired. So I’ll add it later.

Here it is:

I don’t know about you, but as a U.S. taxpayer, I’m kind of excited about my new role as sugar daddy to our nation’s two biggest mortgage lenders, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Almost as thrilled as I was when I got to bankroll the takeover of Bear Stearns by JP Morgan back in March.

These bailouts make clear that I’m a very important person. In fact, I’m essential to the continued functioning of my country’s financial system. So are you. We taxpayers are, as a group, far more important than Wall Street CEOs making millions of dollars a year or hedge fund managers making billions.

That’s because the financial sector in which these people reap their giant rewards isn’t really a free-market business like, say, making ice cream. Sure, it looks one most of the time. But every once in a while comes a crisis in which a complete financial collapse seemingly can’t be averted without government intervention.

With depository institutions like banks, this reality has been acknowledged since the 1930s and we’ve developed a reasonable, if far from perfect, system for avoiding trouble and managing the inevitable breakdowns. But over the past three decades more and more of the financial action has moved outside the traditional banking system. Now we’re finding out that it’s prone to the same risk of panic and collapse that banks are.

What comes next? I’m not sure. I just know that, as one of the guys who bailed all these ninnies out, I–and you–should get a pretty big say in the future structure and regulation of their industry. Don’t you think?

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