Why don't we tell the current Big Three that $25 billion in capital is available—but only to two of them? The surviving two will be those that submit the best, and final, binding bids, supported by all the necessary constituencies: boards, managers, suppliers, vendors, creditors, and the UAW. The plans that are the best, as judged by a panel of private- and public-sector figures—Jack Welch, Warren Buffet, or Felix Rohatyn, plus Office of Management and Budget and Congressional Budget Office officials—are the plans that will get funded...The company with the least impressive plan will be denied funding. To avoid letting the third parties—creditors, the UAW, or vendors—pick the winner by refusing to sign on with their least favorite of the Big Three, third parties will be required to offer the same deal to each of the three. This process will force the companies to bid against one another for aid, giving us the benefit of genuine competition. This is better than an "oversight board" of Cabinet members who have no real understanding of the industry.
I'm sure there are all sorts of complications with such a notion, but doesn't it immediately seem like a fresher idea than anything we've heard in days of hearings and official bloviating? Which brings us to the tragedy of Spitzer. His personal behavior (and before that his temperament in his rocky first year as governor) has left the huge promise he showed as attorney general unfulfilled. But the man is too talented and energetic to simply vanish; the question is, what plausible road to what feasible public role can he take? Spitzer did another piece recently outlining a way forward in the current crisis in the Washington Post, so it's fair to surmise we're seeing a mini-campaign for resurrection on the strength of his ideas.
That's good as far as it goes, but my wife has long had a better idea on what Spitzer should do to build himself back into a useful contributor: He should become the Ralph Nader of financial products and services. Spitzer could do for mortages, credit cards, insurance products etc what Nader did for cars and other consumer products back in his early days. Goodness knows we need some savvy entity looking out for ordinary consumers and society more broadly as we pick up the pieces of financial capitalism in the decade ahead. It's a perfect fit with the mark Spitzer made policing Wall Street as AG. Done right, Spitzer could build a new nonprofit institution devoted to this mission into an important force in American life.
Eliot, please, listen to my wife.