Ben Bernanke (like Tim Geithner and his predecessor Hank Paulson), shows no hesitation in diverting the real resources of the American public to defend and compensate the bondholders of mismanaged financial companies who made reckless loans and who should have (and equally important, could have) been expected to write down principal or swap debt for equity as an alternative to receivership. This is not decisiveness. It is timidity and poor stewardship. Worse, the underlying problems are not healed - only band-aided temporarily by a flood of public money.
Unfortunately, the resources used in the recent bailout were not just free money tossed out of a helicopter. Only a partial-equilibrium economist thinks that way. No, this was an allocation of trillions of dollars of real resources that could be spent improving access of poor families to health care, finding cures for life-changing diseases, providing better education, and reversing the crowding-out of productive private investment. A public servant willing to act this carelessly with the resources entrusted to him, and so strongly in defense of fellow bankers, frankly does not deserve the job. Most likely, we will face the same credit issues a few quarters from now, given that the lull in the adjustable-rate reset schedule is near its end. We continue to expect a fresh acceleration of credit losses as we enter 2010. It would be best if we faced these challenges with more thoughtful leadership.