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To Help Business, First Help the Banks

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Congress has put together a stimulus package that would provide rebates to taxpayers and allow businesses to write-off more expenses. That's all fine and dandy, according to Howard P. Milstein, the chairman and chief executive of New York Private Bank and Trust, but what we should really do is provide some relief to the banks that got us into this mess in the first place.

Writing in the New York Times, Milstein argues that: "The losses that have been incurred as a result of the excesses in subprime mortgage lending will take years to work their way through the worldwide financial system, as dozens of banks act to replenish their lost capital by issuing more common stock in the public markets and trading other equity securities to sovereign wealth funds. Until the banks rebuild their capital, they will not have the wherewithal to lend money and support economic growth. If banks of all sizes could regain their capital immediately and easily, it would be a tremendous benefit to the American economy."

He recommends that the federal government guarantee subprime mortgages for 15 years. In return, banks would leave low-interest "teaser" rates in place for borrowers for the same period of time. "This would instantly give the lending banks new capital," Milstein explains. "As these mortgages would be guaranteed by the Treasury, they would suddenly be assessed, on bank balance sheets, at their original value — and a significant amount of the banks' lost capital would be restored. Plus, the banks would receive, from most of the homeowners with subprime mortgages, up to 15 years of teaser-rate payments."

To read Milstein'sop-ed article in full, click here.

What do you think? Is this a feasible plan? Is it reasonable to throw a life-line to the very banks that created the subprime fiasco? Or is it important to bring stability to the banking sector, regardless of past mistakes, in order to ensure a steady flow of capital and credit to small businesses? And what are you seeing out there: Is your bank affected by the subprime crisis? If so, how has that affected you, and your relationship with your bank?

Last updated: Feb 6, 2008




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