I’ve figured out a way to operationalize a bail-out bet. Method: In five years, the government itself is supposed to publicly announce whether the bail-out lost money. I propose to use the government’s self-assessment in five years to adjudicate the bet. As Newsday explains:

If after five years the Treasury Department has lost money in its program to buy and resell the mortgage-backed securities, Congress and the next president will develop a program to recoup its losses from participating companies.

I’m not holding my breath about “recouping,” but if the bill passes, the government will have to say whether it lost money. (Notice: The bill carefully times the assessment to come after the next election. How clever is that?) And while I expect some fishy accounting, I don’t think it will be enough to turn a loss into a gain. So I’m tentatively willing to bet at even odds that, in five years, the government will say it lost money.

But first: I don’t want to be a Paul Ehrlich. So you tell me: Would I be walking right into a sucker bet of my own making?

Your comments will have a big influence on my decision, so vote early and often. 🙂