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At first, nobody could quite believe Mr Paulson was incompetent. Was it really possible that the Treasury Secretary had no idea of what to do with this unprecedented financial firepower? Perhaps his silence on crucial issues such as what he would pay for the banks' “troubled assets” was just a tactical ruse.
But as the cross-examination rolled on, and Mr Paulson just waffled - “we will ask experts to advise us”, “we will get the best and brightest financiers to suggest ideas” - the terrible truth dawned. There was no such thing as a Paulson plan. Not only did Mr Paulson not know what he was doing. He did not know what he was talking about. When pressed to offer at least some basic principles for his rescue, Mr Paulson had no answers. When challenged about limits to executive remuneration and taxpayer stakes in future profits of participating banks, he brusquely rejected all such proposals - on the amazing ground that they might discourage some of the stronger banks from taking advantage of government support!