With hardly anyone noticing, [Mr. Paulson] pushed through very technical and obscure changes to tax regulations that provide a “tax subsidy” for acquirers of troubled banks. Just as automakers stimulate car sales through rebate checks, the Treasury is providing a form of tax rebate to acquirers of troubled banks. Everyone can thank Hank Paulson and his stealth tax-driven fiscal stimulus for the astonishing news that Wachovia was being acquired by Wells Fargo and not Citigroup. It was Mr. Paulson’s tax subsidy to Wells Fargo that provided the fiscal grease to make this deal happen. Pundits who point to the deal and proclaim that the “free markets work without government help” don’t understand the motivating effect of several billion dollars of tax benefits to Wells Fargo.
[Note: The Wachovia deal with Wells Fargo is on hold until legal questions are resolved.]
Update: See fred, in comments.