Busted: Bankers and The Global Economy

October 1, 2008

Economic Bailout Drumbeat: Securities, Transparency & Housing Value

The White House, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Congressional leaders coupled with candidates McCain and Obama, kept up a steady drumbeat of support for the ultimate bailout plan that has yet to materialize. For the moment, the U.S. political perception is that the world markets are stabilized. The reality is that on the surface, stability is a mirror on the pond of finance. Economists discuss among themselves that the reality of life in America remains that the nation is living way beyond its means. Political ideology in the States coupled with irresponsible spending has brought the nation to its knees. Generally, economists long for a pragmatic economic policy that is not driven solely by politics and special interests. An enlightened public is necessary to drive true reform to force politicians to do what they should.

Cutting bankers some slack by buying their bad securities is a bad idea. Is this not like overpricing the junk in your basement to resale as new? Garage sale junk rarely goes up in value. Depending on failed securities to magically increase in value when they are currently worthless is self-deception. Expecting financial junk to appreciate in value when there is no market for it because the premise of that junk is fatally flawed is no less deceptive. Failed banking securities are not wine.

The technical aspects of buying out bad securities is equally problematic. What is worse, depending on Congressional oversight to save the world is an exercise in futility. The lack of “transparency” is the chief issue behind the entire process. There is still no transparency in the process. Designing that transparency on many levels is probably mythical. Nobody within the brightest barrel of economists truly knows how to accomplish this transparency, but readily admit that the possible solution is highly technical.

The basis of the last several decades of wealth creation has been based on the foundation that housing prices could only increase. If U.S. economists had spent any time looking at Japan, most of us  would know the likelihood of truth. A few of us do. Since the crash of the 90s, housing prices in Japan have continued to move downward with no prospect of increase. Real estate is no longer the quality investment that it was in Japan and this nation is looking at the same scenario. ~ E. Manning

September 24, 2008

Power: The Truths behind the Meltdown

massive bailout

massive bailout

Americans should feel some value in the fact that the FBI is now investigating toxic firms that have been central to the U.S. financial meltdown. For some time 26 firms have been under intense scrutiny by the FBI. The media has been highlighting investigation of the 4 firms that have collapsed: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG and Lehman Brothers.

The mortgage twins, Fannie and Freddie, have already been under investigation for years based on varying problems with financial irregularities and leadership issues. The investigations will focus on the financial firms and the individuals that ran them. Hopefully, middle management will also be scrutinized and judged. The truth is that the FBI needs to find the perpetrators of the fraud rather than single out top dog scapegoats.

financial storm

financial storm

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke made the joint unilateral decision last week that the only way to stop the U.S. financial carnage was to deal with the root cause of all the troubles by rooting out billions of dollars of bad mortgage debt sitting on the books of major financial firms. This debt has triggered the worst credit crisis in decades, “causing” credit markets to freeze up despite the fact that the Fed joined with major central banks around the world to pump billions of dollars of reserves into the financial system. The billions of dollars pumped into the global economy are creating a crisis of stagflation themselves, a nasty round of inflation coupled with the current economic recession and malaise. The results of those actions cannot be undone and are being ignored by panicked authorities.

The reality behind the liquidity lock down that the Bush administration and U.S. Treasury Secretary are panicking about revolves around interbank lending, a problem that has been noticed publicly for at least a year. Why is there a problem? The crisis boils down to an issue of trust. Bankers know that they cannot trust one another and are unwilling to take the fall for the fraud of other bankers. In other words, the bankers know they have been harpooned by the securities that were supposed to make them wealthy. Bankers have put the thumbscrews on lending to protect their solvency.

selling Wall Street

selling Wall Street

The Bush adminstration has its game face on. President Bush says he expects Congress to pass “a robust plan” that deals with the nation’s economic problems. The word robust has become another favorite public watchword that should garner your prompt attention. Robust implies a broad emcompassing scope along with complex provisions that could very well be the downfall of any attempts to band-aid the current situation. Currently, an estimate is that 1 of 254 mortgages is actually in some measure of foreclosure. This is a very small percentage to cause a crisis. What the American press and government is acknowleging is merely the tip of the iceberg. The main problem with securitized loans is that when they were developed and created, a system was not developed to track reality. An internal processing scandal within the process of issuing of these securities is implied. However, government has not been eager to breach this area of the mortgage crisis beyond specifying that the regulations and concepts in the entire financial system are dated and ineffective. Somehow, this idea is supposed to get government, regulators and bankers off the hook.

taxpayer crisis

taxpayer crisis

What should be done to resolve the current foreclosure crisis? Not a soul has bothered to shift gears in addressing the real problem regarding predatory financing and usury in place. Each known problem loan triggered by payment issues needs to be evaluated regarding the current real value of the home. If evaluation of home value is an issue because of a weak market, then half the real value of home should be the mortgage value. This action would assist in correcting inflated home prices and counter price inflation. Any failure of the past verification process through bankers or qualification of the homeowner should be ignored as long as the homeowner is gainfully employed and can make the payments on the new loan. The government then needs to reissue a safe government-backed assumable loan that will allow the buyer to stay in the home at a low interest rate. Ultimately, the goal would be for every loan to be converted to a non-predatory government loan with low interest. Loans would not be securitized or bundled for resale as government securities. Banks would not bundle loans into any internal or banking instruments. Bankers would simply make money from compound interest and providing basic banking services. The bailout needs to be on the side of the taxpayer, the basis and stock of capital and wealth, rather than on the side of corporate interests that often pay few taxes in the real world beyond payroll.

losing the Dream

losing the Dream

If push came to shove, the nation would be better off giving mortgages away than bailing out the endless debt and failure created by Wall Street and the system in place. Americans would then own their homes fair and square with a new national beginning. Trillions in debt would be eliminated overnight. This idea seems radical and expensive, but is assuredly no more expensive than a long-term bailout of government and corporate fraud. The American population would benefit directly from the bailout, as should always be the case. The main problem is that such an action would destabilize the power structure in place. However, the ideas presented here are no less sane than what is being proposed by the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury in the name of the Bush administration. We are a nation of double standards that bolsters government and corporate power at the expense of the populace, a fascist notion. That needs to change.

The FBI has been in various stages of investigation regarding the mortgage debacle since March of 2007, even before most Americans were aware of a scandal. This proves that the Bush administration has been aware of mortgage fraud and scandal before the nation began to see the sign in the summer of 2007. As far back as the summer of 2004, President Bush beamed with pride about the creativity of the banking and mortgage industry, the single force that had maintained the illusion of national prosperity during the last three political administrations, originating from the Clinton administration.

Where are the people that are being investigated and implicated in fraudulent activities? Is the FBI keeping tabs on the movements of those may be involved in the scandal? What Americans should be concerned about is whether the U.S. government is allowing people that are tied directly into these firms to leave the country if they haven’t left already. ~ E. Manning

September 23, 2008

Global Liquidity Crisis: On the Brink

crisis solution

crisis solution

Turn on the TV, read the paper or peruse the latest internet news. You’ll be told that we’re on the brink of imminent crisis, a lock down of liquidity that must be remedied immediately. The Fifth Avenue Rush is on. The only solution is bipartisan unity in Congress to turn over vast power to the Bush administration and the U.S. Treasury without accountability. The Republican feel-good legislation is in place to save the home of the brave. We can do it if we can do it together. We will save the world for democracy.

The American taxpayer must trust that Henry Paulsen will use $700 billion wisely to snatch up worthless securitized bonds. Sound familiar? In the same way that the Federal Reserve Bank is totally unaccountable and is never subject to audit, the current proposal contains this proviso:

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

Henry Paulson, because of the massive liquidity freeze, is about to receive kingly authority to solve the current liquidity crisis. Even after the nation spends an initial sum of $700 billion, there is no guarantee of success beyond maintaining the current business, investor climate and monetary markets, shaky though they may be. The entire proposal is designed to bailout the collapsing U.S. financial system and save the world so that the current power structure can continue unchanged, further supporting control over the failing system. In the words of the administration, the fate of every American’s retirement and savings hangs in the balance. That makes many Americans nervous, at least for those that have managed to prosper, save and invest.

bailout money grab

bailout money grab

In one more segment of authority, the executive branch of the Bush administration wants to perform another magnanimous service while exempting itself from any chance of responsibility or review for the pending results.

While the media and Congress are fussing about the lack of oversight on the project or who Henry Paulson uses to assist him in the huge money grab, the Federal Reserve Bank and the International Society of Bankers sit quietly by watching the drama like ripe fruit ready for picking. A few have pointed out that the lack of oversight is a grand opportunity for abuse or profitaking.

This current idea proposed is bold and transparent in simplicity. Have the Federal Reserve wave its monetary wand, giving buddies in the former investment banking industry piles of cash for rooting out the bad bonds and making a huge chunk of debt go away as the Federal Reserve apportions more American gold to send quietly to Swiss vaults while clueless Americans aren’t watching. No rush about the physical location of gold. International Bankers will count it anyway as their personal profit and add it to the national debt. Never mind that the Fed is already holding all the nation’s gold. Fort Knox is an illusion.

fort knox gold

fort knox gold

The funding credits will never actually need to leave the Fed. The entire process can be done electronically without a trace. The craft is in the paperwork that the U.S. Treasury will alter, permanently erasing a mountain of fraudulent debt that only the banking community and authorities can see. The scheme is perfect because the scheme is all about semantics anyway.

Never has such a bailout been proposed with such secrecy. Even the federal bailouts during the Great Depression and during the Savings and Loan collapse of the 80s never suspended judicial review. Enter an emboldened U.S. Congress led by a Democrat majority that seeks oversight and taxpayer protections. Congress claims to be keenly interested in recouping any possibility of future income derived from currently worthless securitized bonds as the Bush Administration claims. Yet, the American taxpayer will never see a penny from these worthless pieces of paper.

homeowner bailout

homeowner bailout

Democrats want to be certain that going forward, any institutions that benefit from financial insurance also bear the cost of that insurance. Congress is also interested in bailing out beleaguered homeowners that face losing their homes. On “The View,” Whoopi Goldberg and Bill Clinton agreed that enraged Americans need the same bailout consideration that Wall Street and the financial system is getting. Unlike Congress, Whoopi and Bill weren’t talking about new bankruptcy laws that Barney Frank thinks will do the trick. Americans want cold hard cash that they can retire on, like the bankers that robbed the nation.

While all of these opportunities can be justified and even supported, the possibility of pork barrel spending is likely to escalate as Senators and Representatives see the opportunity to bolster their interests. That is the part and parcel of shameless American politics in this age.

credit addiction

credit addiction

Meanwhile, a desperate executive administration and U.S. Treasury Secretary are prepared to do most anything to get legislation through Congress. Reputations are now on the line.

Paulson and President Bush have argued that the alternative is that credit markets will remain frozen. Businesses will fail because they can’t get the loans they need to operate. The economy will grind to a halt because consumers that account for two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, won’t be able to get the credit they need to keep spending. Just think, it all started with broadening the profits of bankers by using compound interest instead of simple interest. We’ve come a long way baby.

national security

national security

Unbridled credit is the insanity that this nation has been built on in the last four decades. Unbridled credit is what has enabled this nation to rise prices without raising wages. Unbridled credit is what has allowed the American consumer to sell himself into slavery to financial interests. Unbridled credit is what has built the power that politicians and business have come to depend on. Unbridled credit is why even Big Business seeks cheap Federal Reserve funding. The Federal Reserve and the International Bankers hold the key to that credit through the auspices of the federal government. The spectacle is all about power and the fear of change. This is the nation’s new national security issue. ~ E. Manning

September 19, 2008

Total Meltdown or Financial Reconstruction?

What is happening on Wall Street? Everyone wants to know why government has waited so long and who will be held accountable. Now we are in the midst of a financial panic. Communication at the top of government during the panic has been in contention among politicians. Some are pointing fingers of blame. Most are simply carrying a stiff upper lip and wearing a poker face.

hundreds of billions of dollars

bailout: hundreds of billions of dollars

There has been plenty of talk about effectively sucking up the bad securities with a vaccuum cleaner style policy that has yet to be revealed. This miraculous policy is what authorities will be working on today and this weekend in order to avoid what some say is an inevitable collapse. In essence, everything needs shoring up and the government seems intent on taking care of the world. Open the newspaper or check out the internet to see the flurry of activity by authorities “to address the underlying problem.” All of this is being touted to cost the American taxpayer far less than allowing the crushed system to play itself out. If you like big government or have the idea that only marketing matters, this may be the ultimate solution for you.

Recently bailed out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be used to bolster the system, but all measures in place are deemed as “not enough.” Liquidity must be restored. Government is working to eliminate selling short by profiteers, which has worked to undermine the solidity of the system. They expect to buy out all of the securities, modernize the system to today’s standards and then set up new rules so that what led to the collapse can never happen again. U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has revealed right now that saving the system from total collapse is what is on the financial and political plate this weekend rather than worrying about the idea of regulating the new policies that they want to put in place. Obviously, flooding the monetary system with a cash infusion yesterday has done nothing to take care of the crisis. That is no surprise.

Now a lame duck president is setting the direction for this nation with very little consultation, much like what he has done with other issues during his terms in office. There must be no controversy and authorities are in a great rush to action. Is that action warranted? Will the nation default on its debt? What will happen after the policy miracle of this weekend? Like it or not, prepare for a roller coaster ride. ~ E. Manning

September 15, 2008

No Wall Street Government Bailout, Sort of

With steely resolve, Henry Paulson, former Goldman Sachs investment banker has declined to cave in to pressure. There will be no investment banking bailout by Big Government today. Henry Paulson is prepared to let Lehman Brothers die on the vine, a sacrificial warning to bankers.

national banking snuggy?

national banking snuggy?

However, the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury have designed a way to take some pressure from Wall Street investment firms as we clearly answer the question to yesterday’s post. Wall Street is awash in debt that previously could not be used for collateral. Starting tomorrow, the Federal Reserve will accept “investment-grade debt securities” as collateral in the Term Securities Lending Facility (TSLF) auctions and has expanded securities for the Primary Credit Dealer Facility (PCDF) based on what national clearing banks have on hand.

In essence, the Federal Reserve is accepting less secure banking instruments that bankers have in ample supply. This is subject, of course, to various conditions to “promote safety and soundness,” all good through January 30 of next year. It is hoped that this move will prevent any panic in the markets as authorities continue to dumb the system down. The investment banking system has been in worse shape than authorities have been willing to previously acknowledge. Outsiders have often assumed otherwise.

Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan said the market is the worst he has ever witnessed and predicted another major bank would close soon. Meanwhile, inflation is rising, real wages are declining, and the problems in the housing market persist.

~ E. Manning

September 14, 2008

Wall Street: Strength or Poor Collateral?

economic checkmate?

economic checkmate?

With each succeeding bailout through nationalization, the U.S. government grows larger. Innovation rarely happens within government, so nationalization is rarely a good prospect for a growing and dynamic economy. The U.S. economy is clearly in a decline. More bailouts only prolong the pain and do little to spur the nation forward as it languishes and flounders. Bailouts appear to be a prop, but in reality further weakens the economy in a downward spiral.

More and more businesses want government money to move their business projects forward, especially for public works and energy projects. Arguably, either business is so bad that business doesn’t want to take risks or business has become lazy in risk department, unwilling to set aside funds for projects that might be considered in the public interest. Big Business is coming into the habit of standing by for government loans at “public expense.” Even the Big Three auto manufacturers are looking for handouts or cheap loans from the Federal Reserve.

All weekend, bankers of prominent standing have been visiting the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in round robin style, while the U.S. Treasury pounds away in the hope of negotiating an agreeable deal for Lehman. The prospect of saving the majors of Wall Street and preventing economic collapse around the globe as investments are compromised is what is at stake.

Investment bankers have been able to borrow from the Federal Reserve since the collapse of Bear Stearns. Based on certain rules, the Federal Reserve has allowed investment bankers to borrow operating capital for the short-term to sustain business. Investment banks have supposedly stopped borrowing from the Federal Reserve since April of 2008.

On the surface, this lack of borrowing is indicative of an improvement in health. However, if the quality of the collateral held is so poor that the Federal Reserve will not accept the collateral for a short-term loan, this is indicative of far greater failure than is being publicly admitted. Could this be why bankers are being called to the Fed in the hope of sequestering a bailout deal and leave running the other direction?

Bankers are naturally eager to survive and unwilling to soak up any more failed collateral. If the government doesn’t come up with an enticing enough proposal to persuade a private bailout, the collapse of Lehman is likely to lead to global losses and more financial dominoes. Henry Paulson has been reluctant to promote more bailout fever, perhaps fearful of more weakness and more bailouts on his shoulders.

Clearly, the U.S. government is incapable of bailing all business out, nor should it be expected to. Business holds a certain amount of risk that can be largely anticipated to a certain point. Bankers have been heavily impacted from the financial derivitives that were expected to create endless wealth. Smaller commercial bankers in the United States have been largely protected from these risks and continue to make poor decisions because they can. International bankers and bank holding companies cannot afford to eat more huge losses while borrowing heavily from foreign nations for more financial sustenance. If there is no profit in a deal, they won’t be making one.

The U.S. and perhaps the global economy is at a crossroads this week. We are going to find out whether Uncle Sam can find a way to entice bankers into a private bailout. Perhaps reality is so bad that the deal is virtually untouchable. Has “tough love” finally come home?
~ E. Manning

September 13, 2008

Investment Bankers Fear Panic and Unrest

Paulson's Grand Staircase?

Paulson at the Grand Staircase?

With the shakeout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers almost seems an afterthought these days. The firm is clearly looking for salvation, but Big Government doesn’t seem so eager for a Bear Stearns type bailout. The problem is that the panic on Wall Street doesn’t affect only the plight of Lehman Brothers, but has the ability to touch the entire scope of Wall Street resulting in economic ripples and collateral damage throughout the U.S. economy.

Are the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve in such fear that no solution is evident or is the weakness of banking institutions creating a problem in an effort to support failing Lehman Brothers? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to discern that the nation is in the midst of another economic crossroads. However, the national and investor confidence doesn’t ring true with the “optimism” suggested by the press last Monday with Fannie and Freddie in the stock market.

In the past, the god of confidence has been the mainstay of U.S. economic policy. Confidence can only be harmed by allowing failing Wall Street to collapse. Yet, if decline and collapse what were to happen, that is exactly what should happen. The federal government has put themselves in the business of shoring business up instead of allowing for the consequences of business risk or business failures as a result of banking abuse. The reluctance of U.S. authorities to shore up the perception of a crumbling system indicates other more severe economic issues at hand behind the scenes. Wall Street stress is just the tip of the iceberg.
~ E. Manning

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