Looking for cash to shore up its balance sheet, Citigroup said today that it has received a $12.5 billion investment from outside investors, including the Government of Singapore Investment Corp. and the Kuwait Investment Authority. That follows a $7.5 billion cash infusion from the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley have also been the beneficiaries of investment dough from foreign sovereign wealth funds.
But what if America had a national sovereign wealth fund? (States, of course, do have pension funds that invest in the market.) Wouldn't there be tremendous political pressure to use it to prop up struggling banks? Better "us" doing it than "them" would surely be the reasoning. And, indeed, we almost did have a SWF of sorts. Back in 1998, President Clinton proposed taking $600 billion in projected budget surpluses and investing in the stock market as a way of bolstering the Social Security system. Free-market types objected to the plan, saying it was tantamount to government ownership of private companies and would create a sort of next-generation socialism. Yet had it happened, it might well have morphed by now into a more traditional SWF that would take equity stakes in companies around the world to boost returns.