Friday, September 26, 2008

Government always underestimates

We're being duped again. The proposed sum of all bailouts so far isn't even close to 700 billion.

We're talking about 1.8 trillion dollars.

From cnbc:

—Up to $700 billion to buy assets from struggling institutions. The plan is aimed at sopping up residential and commercial mortgages from financial institutions but gives Treasury broad latitude.

—Up to $50 billion from the Great Depression-era Exchange Stabilization Fund to guarantee principal in money market mutual funds to provide the same confidence that consumers have in federally insured bank deposits.

—The Fed committed to make unspecified discount window loans to financial institutions to finance the purchase of assets from money market funds to aid redemptions.

—At least $10 billion in Treasury direct purchases of mortgage-backed securities in September. In doubling the program on Friday, the Treasury said it may purchase even more in the months ahead.

—Up to $144 billion in additional MBS purchases by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.The Treasury announced they would increase purchases up to the newly expanded investment portfolio limits of $850 billion each. On July 30, the Fannie portfolio stood at $758.1 billion with Freddie's at $798.2 billion.

—$85 billion loan for AIG, which would give the Federal government a 79.9 percent stake and avoid a bankruptcy filing for the embattled insurer. AIG management will be dismissed.

—At least $87 billion in repayments to JPMorgan Chase for providing financing to underpin trades with units of bankrupt investment bank Lehman Brothers. Paulson said over the weekend he was adamant that public funds not be used to rescue the firm.

—$200 billion for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Treasury will inject up to $100 billion into each institution by purchasing preferred stock to shore up their capital as needed. The deal puts the two housing finance firms under government control.

—$300 billion for the Federal Housing Administration to refinance failing mortgage into new, reduced-principal loans with a federal guarantee, passed as part of a broad housing rescue bill.

—$4 billion in grants to local communities to help them buy and repair homes abandoned due to mortgage foreclosures.

—$29 billion in financing for JPMorgan Chase's government-brokered buyout of Bear Stearns in March. The Fed agreed to take $30 billion in questionable Bear assets as collateral, making JPMorgan liable for the first $1 billion in losses, while agreeing to shoulder any further losses.

—At least $200 billion of currently outstanding loans to banks issued through the Fed's Term Auction Facility, which was recently expanded to allow for longer loans of 84 days alongside the previous 28-day credits.

Of course, 1.8 trillion is the current ceiling if all of these estimates are right. They are probably under their true value as well.

The blog Naked Capitalism quotes a Japanese expert that the true bailout figure would have to be closer to 5 trillion.

5 trillion?

That is an insane amount of money. Hold on to your hats, boys. You can't drop that kind of new, created from nothing fiat money into a money supply without triggering massive inflation. Of course, the banks and friends get to spend it first, when it still has value, the rest of us unwashed dupes get to suffer the consequences of our savings accounts and wage purchasing power plummeting in real value.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Senator Hatch on Bailout

This financial train wreck has brought me out of my blogging slumber to make a few comments. I hope to make this a more permanent stretch of blogging.

Being an LDS Utahn, I am both writing my congressman persuading them to oppose this bailout, and interested to see what they are saying. I found out via the local public radio station that Senator Hatch had given a 20 minute speech earlier this week about the Paulson/Bernanke plan. When I got home I looked it up, and read through it.

You can find the text here.

I must admit that I'm not a big fan of Senator Hatch. I think he's been in Washington much too long and should be replaced by a vote of the people, but I do have to give him partial props for this speech. He correctly identifies the major driver of the problem, unlike so many others who are trying to divert attention the other way, but fails to deliver in the end, weaseling out of the real solution to deliver the same-old "congress has to do something message."

Here's the diagnosis:

Right now, we are seeing the consequences of a long series of policy errors, both in the private and public sectors, which combined to create a perfect storm of financial instability. Many of our problems stem from our monetary policy at the Federal Reserve. From 1988 to 1999, the Fed pursued a relatively stable monetary policy. However, in anticipation of serious problems with the financial sector's computer systems as the year 2000 approached, the Fed flooded the system with money in 1999. This contributed to the ``dot com'' bubble, and subsequent efforts to take out the excess cash contributed to the recession of 2001.
+1 on identifying the Fed, and its loose monetary policy in the dot-com bubble.

In order to spur the economy, the Federal Reserve held short-term interest rates too low for too long, well below the expected rate of inflation. The money that subsequently poured into housing and commodities created excessive demand, contributing to the housing and commodity price bubbles, both of which burst due to the most recent efforts of the Fed to return to a less- inflationary stance.
+1 on identifying the Fed for fueling the housing boom.

So here's the logical leap he's not willing to make:

The Fed is the thing that drives the large boom-bust cycles so prevalent in the 20th and 21st century. The Fed is the thing that is the cause, so that is where the cure must land. And its not that the Fed just needs new leadership that is more skilled that the current. The Fed, the central bank, and fiat money in general is the culprit.

No one is smart enough to set interest rates and monetary policy for a market as large as the US. Price is something that socialist, planned economies can never set correctly. The Fed sets the price of new money, and there's no way that will ever be as good as letting the market forces, including supply and demand.

Anyway, Senator Hatch can't go here, fiat money by nature allows unfettered government spending. The powerful rarely, very rarely lay power down, so Hatch argues for congressional intervention in any case.

And though I hesitate to support the idea, it is not unreasonable to conclude that the proposed bailout can provide immediate relief and prevent any more catastrophic losses in the near future and give the financial market time to sort out the mess.

These are indeed difficult times for our financial markets and the housing sector of our economy. I agree with my colleagues that we need to act fast.
-10, Sen. Hatch, your conclusion doesn't match your thesis. This crisis calls for the most powerful medicine we can throw at it: a market correction. Powerful medicine indeed, and no politician can take credit for "doing something."