Saturday, April 5, 2008
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
The more the Federal Reserve interferes with our “free market” the more it’s going to hurt the middle and lower class. The Fed’s fix is to lower its interest rate that it loans money too banks with and print as much money out of thin air as “needed”. In doing so they believe that this will have a trickle down effect for the consumer and keep the banks afloat. The real effect, which is so apparent that it should be criminal to deny is a rapidly growing inflation of commodity prices and the debasing of the dollar. In other words everything you buy on a daily basis is becoming more and more expensive and the money you work for and have saved is becoming worthless. This isn’t a problem if you make more money in a day than the entire GDP of a small country. We are in a recession already regardless what the Government says. The people losing their homes across the country feel it; the middle and lower class are swamped by it; fixed income retirees pay for it daily. Why is it, that Wall Street and
Below is an article about the Fed Bail-out of Bear Stearns and why as I described above the Fed’s actions are making this situation even worse.
The Assault on Free Markets
Apr 4, 2008
Those blindsided by the recent financial meltdown are now loudly blaming the free market for its failure to police its own excesses, and are calling for greater regulation to prevent future disasters. But for those who clearly observed the problems developing (in high definition slow motion) the blame can be directed squarely at the policies of the Greenspan/Bernanke Federal Reserve. As has been the case countless times in history, the free market will now pay the price for government incompetence.
In Senate hearings this week, all parties involved completely ignored the Fed's own culpability in igniting the speculative fever. It's as if a senior prom had turned into a wild bacchanalia, and angry parents now question why the chaperones failed to notice the disrobing or why the DJ played provocative music, all the while ignoring the bearded gentleman pouring grain alcohol into the punch bowl.
A perfect illustration of the Fed's failure to take responsibility can be found in Bernanke's explanations regarding inflation, which he solely attributes to the effects of the rapid increase in global commodity prices. He failed to mention that commodity prices are rising as a direct consequence of his monetary policy, which is debasing not just the U.S. dollar, but currencies around the world. Rather than accepting the blame for creating inflation, Bernanke is shifting the blame to the free market. The Senators are happy to let him get away with it as it provides more evidence to support the "need " for more government to save the economy from the disastrous effects of unbridled capitalism.
When asked how we got into this mess, Bernanke replied that our problems resulted from an excessive credit bubble characterized by aggressive leverage, reckless lending, and extreme risk taking. Absent from his explanation was the Fed's role in irresponsibly setting interest rates below market levels, which mispriced risk, got the party started and kept it raging into the wee hours of the morning. The expressed goal of the Fed for much of this decade was, and is, to encourage and facilitate borrowing and lending.
During his testimony, Bernanke continued to claim that Bear Steams was not bailed out as shareholders only received about $10 per share. Of course, $10 is better than zero, which is what they surely would have received if the Fed hadn't thrown taxpayer money around. What about Bear's creditors though? Although the collapse of Bear Stearns would have cost bond holders dearly, the bailout essentially makes them whole. Here again, the Fed creates even greater moral hazards by encouraging excessive risk taking. By bailing out lenders who extend excessive credit, the Fed simply invites more of that behavior. The free market must be allowed to properly price risk. Lenders need to know that when they lend money, whether to highly leveraged investment banks and hedge funds, or to over-stretched homebuyers or credit card users, they risk not getting paid back. By interfering with this process the Fed simply guarantees more losses and even bigger bailouts in the future.
Also, leveraged speculators need to know that it is not "heads they win, tails the taxpayers lose". Wall Street executives amassed fortunes by making extremely risky bets. Now that those bets have soured, why is it taxpayers that have to swallow the losses? Wall Street billionaires earn their bucks on the backs of the middle class, who made little on the way up, but foot the entire bill on the way down.
While Bernanke talked about the underlying strength of our economy, he claimed necessity in saving Bear Stearns from bankruptcy as it would have brought down our entire financial system. How sound can our economy be if the failure of one investment bank could topple it? Does this now mean that no more major banks or brokerage firms will be allowed to fail? Since we routinely accused Japan of practicing "crony capitalism" what do you suppose we should call our version?
Not to be outdone in rewarding reckless behavior, earlier in the week Congress passed $15 billion in tax breaks for homebuilders, who had made their fortunes overbuilding during the bubble and unloading their shares to a gullible public. By threatening to hold back on their political contributions, these same homebuilders are awarded still more billions. The last ones we should be subsidizing are homebuilders. After all, the last thing we need right now is more homes.
The legislation also contained a provision that offers generous tax credits to individuals who buy homes out of foreclosure. While this is billed as a benefit to homebuyers, it is just another hand out to lenders, as those qualifying for the tax breaks will simply pay more at auctions as the tax breaks subsidize higher bids. The real winners are the creditors who get more in foreclosure than would have been the case had buyers not had their bids subsidized by the government.
Of course, for all the talk about taxpayer bailouts, none of the senators bothered to mention that, for the moment, no tax increases are actually on the table. Instead, the bailouts are being financed by savers, pensioners, wage earners, investors and the elderly on fixed incomes, who all suffer staggering increases in their costs of living, as the Fed uses inflation to rob Main Street to pay off Wall Street.
This is the first good report I have seen by the mainstream American media. David Walker, the head of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is literally shouting for reform to try and prevent one of the biggest disasters facing the American Economic system, Healthcare! Not only will this be an incomprehensible failure for our economy but it could spell the end of the middle class in this country. Already today with the collapse of the sub prime market and the massive global credit crisis, the American middle class is being exploited and stripped of any wealth and value it may still hold.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Below is a good article outlining one of the many, many problems facing our current financial crisis. I say "our" because we as the "American Tax Payers" are paying the price for the overwhelming greed and the exploitation of these "suffering" Financial institutions.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes qui-tacet consentit?
(Who is guarding the guards?)
If It's Not Dead on Arrival, Someone Should Shoot It Quick
Paulson's Fixit Plan for Wall Street
By MIKE WHITNEY
It is being billed as a "massive shakeup of US financial market regulation", but don't be deceived. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's proposals for broad market reform are neither "timely" nor "thoughtful" (Reuters) In fact, its all just more of the same free market "we can police ourselves" mumbo jumbo that got us into this mess in the first place. The real objective of Paulson's so called reforms is to decapitate the SEC and increase the powers of the Federal Reserve. Same wine, different bottle. Paulson's motive is to preempt any regulatory sledgehammer that might descend on the entire financial industry following the 2008 election. There's growing fear that an incoming Democrat may tote a firehose down to Wall Street.
If Paulson's plan is approved in its present form, Congress will have even less control over the financial system than it does now and the same group of self-serving banking mandarins who created the biggest equity bubble in history will be able to administer the markets however they choose without the inconvenience of government supervision. That's exactly what Wall Street, the Treasury Secretary and the folk at the Fed want; unlimited power with no accountability.
Paulson is expected to lay out guidelines and principles that are intended to help regulators supervise the financial markets. According to AFP:
"The President's Working Group on Financial Markets said the current regulatory structure is working well despite calls by some US lawmakers."
In other words, the failing banking system, the housing meltdown, and the frozen corporate bond market are all signs of a robust financial system? This may be the most ludicrous statement since "Mission accomplished". The system is imploding and people are being hurt by the fallout. Thirty years of industry-led lobbying has dismantled the (admittedly frail ad porous) regulatory regime which made US financial markets the envy of the world. Whatever credibility and transparency once existed were washed out in the Clinton era, as with Glass-Steagall and government oversight of the explosive growth of over-the counter derivatives instruments. Now the system is prey to all types of dodgy debt instruments, suspicious "dark pool" trading and off-balance sheets operations which further reinforce the belief that cautious investment is no better than casino gambling.
"The regulatory line of sight today is by the counterparties," the official said, adding that the guidelines should be "beneficial to industry." (AFP)
How is that different than saying, "Caveat emptor"? That's not a motto that inspires confidence. Many people still naively believe that planning their retirement should not have to be a Darwinian tussle with a crafty junk-bond salesman.
Under Paulson's plan, the Federal Reserve will be granted new regulatory powers, but whatever for? The Fed doesn't use the powers it has now. No one stopped the Fed from intervening in the mortgage lending fiasco, or the ratings agency abuses or the off-balance sheets shenanigans. They had the authority and they should have used it. The folks at the Fed knew everything that was going on---including the mushrooming sales of derivatives contracts which soared from under $1 trillion in 2000 to over $500 trillion in 2006---but they decided to cheerlead from the sidelines rather than do their jobs. The fact is, they were worried that if they got involved they might upset the gravy-train of profits that was enriching their bankster friends.
Former Fed chief Greenspan used to croon like a smitten teenager every time he was asked about subprime loans or adjustable rate mortgages. And, as New York Times columnist Floyd Norris points out, (Greenspan) "praised the growth in the derivatives market as a boon for market stability, and resisted calls to use the Fed's power to increase regulation." Of course, he did. It was all part of Maestro's "New Economy"; trickle-down Elysium, where the endless flow of low interest credit merged with financial innovation to create a Reaganesque El Dorado. There are no regulations in this version of Eden, not even "Don't bite the apple". Anything goes and to heck with the public, they can fend for themselves.Now its Paulson's job to keep the neoliberal flame lit long enough to make sure that government busybodies and bureaucratic do-goodies don't upset the cart. That means concocting a wacky public relations campaign to convince the public that Wall Street is not just a pirate's cove of land-sharks and bunko artists, but a trusted ally in maintaining a strong economy through vital and efficient markets.
The Times' Norris summed up Paulson's sham reforms like this:
"The plan has its genesis in a yearlong effort to limiting Washington's role in the market. And that DNA is unmistakably evident in the fine print. Although the proposal would impose the first regulation of hedge funds and private equity funds, that oversight would have a light touch, enabling the government to do little beyond collecting information - except in times of crisis. The regulatory umbrella created in the 1930s would grow wider, with power concentrated in fewer agencies. But that authority would be limited, doing virtually nothing to regulate the many new financial products whose unwise use has been a culprit in the current financial crisis. ("In Treasury Plan, a Reluctant Eye over Wall Street", Floyd Norris, New York Times)
What nonsense. The house is on fire and hyperventilating Hank is still wasting our time with this rubbish. The real problem is that Paulson and his buddies at the Federal Reserve think of the financial system as their personal fiefdom so they refuse to loosen their \ grip even though the economy is listing starboard and the water is flooding into the lower decks.Once again, the New York Times:
"All the checks and balances in the plan reflect the mindset of its architect, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who came to Washington after a long career on Wall Street. He has worried that any effort to substantially tighten regulation could hamper the ability of American markets to compete with foreign rivals."
No one elected Paulson to do anything. He has no mandate. He is an industry rep. who has worked exclusively for a small group of wealthy investors who have put the entire country at risk with their toxic mortgage-backed bonds, their reckless Ponzi-type speculation, and their off-book chicanery. Paulson should be removed immediately and returned to his wolf's lair at G-Sax. If Bush is serious about straightening out Wall Street, then bring in Eliot Spitzer. He's probably available, at least in daytime hours. And he'll do what it takes to clean house, that is, put a truncheon-wielding robo-cop in every trading-pit at the NYSE, and dispatch government accountants to every office of every CFO making sure they have a Big Red Pen in one hand and a taser in the other. That's the only way to get the attention of the bandit-class.
"I do not believe it is fair or accurate to blame our regulatory structure for the current turmoil," says Paulson.
Paulson is wrong. The current turmoil is all about the lack of regulation and he'd better prepare himself for some big changes. The pendulum is already in motion and tighter regulations will soon follow. There needs to be an accounting process for all transactions and capital requirements for every financial institution that creates credit. No exceptions. All of these businesses pose a real danger to the overall system and, therefore, must conform to clearly articulated and strictly enforced rules; no off-balance sheets operations, no dark pool trading, no unregulated derivatives contracts, no level 3 assets, no "mark to model" garbage bonds where CFOs unilaterally decide what they are worth by picking a number out of a hat. Its time to restore order to the markets so retirees and working class families can feel safe investing in their futures. They are the ones who are most hurt by Wall Street's endless trickery. Paulson's plan is a non starter. The era of sandbagging, supply-side banditry is over. Good riddance.
Friday, March 28, 2008
"When the gods wish to punish us they answer our prayers."
- Oscar Wilde