Save the Banks, Shoot the Bankers
This looks pretty impressive until you notice those are ones, and that's maybe 45 bucks there. You've really made it champ. So here's the plan the treasury announced yesterday: The government will provide loans for private investors to buy up the aforementioned horseshit from the banks. This would give these banks enough money so they could go about their business and not collapse like an old woman getting out of the bathtub. After that, if the horseshit goes up in price the government gets back their money and splits the profit with the private investors. If the horseshit goes down in price, the private investor takes a small loss, and the government takes a small to enormous loss, depending on various properties of the horseshit (taste? grittiness?) There's three problems with this plan. One, this involves buying horseshit from the banks for more than it's probably worth, and keeping each bank's current management intact, despite growing evidence that they're colossal fuckers. Two, it involves the private investors taking a chunk of any potential profit while risking only a tiny portion of their own money--effectively another subsidy for wealthy jerks. And the third problem is that this plan may not be big enough. The private investors, even playing mostly with the government's money, might not be willing to pay enough for this horseshit to keep the banks from going bankrupt. So the banks won't sell, and we'll all sit around picking at each other's asses for a bit longer.
The main alternative to this plan is the nationalization of some of the banks. (This has also been referred to as "pre-privatization" or "filthy red socialism" depending on who you talk too.) In this scenario, the government takes over some banks completely. I'm not sure how that works exactly, but I like to think it involves a bureaucrat who looks a bit like Rick Moranis walking in the front door of a bank and firing a gun into the air a couple times to scare everyone off. Once the government owns the bank, they take all the horseshit, transfer it to the government's books, and then resell the bank (intact or in parts) to any private investors who want it. The government can then keep the horseshit or sell it whenever it wants. Temporary nationalizations like this already happen relatively frequently, albeit with much smaller banks. The big upside to nationalization is the government doesn't have to overpay for anything, nor share any potential profits with the private investors. So ultimately, in this scenario, there should be less cost to the taxpayer. The major downside is taking over and running a bank for a few months or years is potentially a huge headache, and the kind of thing governments routinely screw up. Remember that time the government did that thing really well with a minimum of scandal?