Wednesday, February 25

The Feds Screw Us Some More

The guy who actually is in charge of oversight for the SEVEN HUNDRED BILLION DOLLAR Troubled Asset Relief Program, (TARP), says it is "ripe for fraud".

I think I'll have a heart attack and die of "not surprised".

The High Cost of Good Intentions

Remember when The World As We Know It was going to end last September unless Congress threw $800 billion at the banks?

Well, here's how some of that money was spent. We overpaid $78 billion dollars for bad assets that the government has no business owning.

Now that's what I call seriously throwing good money after bad.

Tuesday, February 24

Ten Years Ago

This piece from the September 30, 1999 issue of the New York Times tells about a program initiated by Fannie Mae to "help increase home ownership rates among minorities and low-income consumers." And how would this program increase home ownership? Ah, it was a brilliant plan - brilliant I tell you:
The action, which will begin as a pilot program involving 24 banks in 15 markets -- including the New York metropolitan region -- will encourage those banks to extend home mortgages to individuals whose credit is generally not good enough to qualify for conventional loans.
To be honest, they didn't do it our of pure altruism; there was some "pressure" applied by various parties also deeply interested in the welfare of minorities and low-income consumers.
Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton Administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people and felt pressure from stock holders to maintain its phenomenal growth in profits.
But hey, they were just doing it for the children, weren't they? And how did they propose to help those minorities and low-income consumers? With a plan that was a brilliant as it was daring: they would loan money to people who couldn't repay it!
In addition, banks, thrift institutions and mortgage companies have been pressing Fannie Mae to help them make more loans to so-called subprime borrowers. These borrowers whose incomes, credit ratings and savings are not good enough to qualify for conventional loans, can only get loans from finance companies that charge much higher interest rates -- anywhere from three to four percentage points higher than conventional loans.
I just feel a warm glow all over knowing that the government cares so much about minorities and low-income consumers, don't you?

And now, after the government has done so much to help, they are going to do even more!

Oh, I am flushed with giddy anticipation at the wonders our Glorious Leaders have planned for us poor minorities and/or low-income consumers ten years from now. I mean, who could have guessed ten years ago that these programs would be so stunningly successful? The sourpuss who wrote this piece did mention a wee tiny dark cloud on the horizon, a cloud no darker than a man's hand, one might say:
Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose any difficulties during flush economic times. But the government-subsidized corporation may run into trouble in an economic downturn, prompting a government rescue similar to that of the savings and loan industry in the 1980's.
Good intentions are really all that matters, and no one but no one has more good intentions than Our American Government.

Call your Congresscritter. Make their lives as miserable as they have made yours.

I added a new post to Rockonomics today, for those of you interested in trading-related stuff.

Thursday, February 19

Thursday, February 12

You can lead the borrower to the bank...

...but you can't make him take out a loan.

This story from Bloomberg highlights the fundamental problem with the Billionaire Bank Bailout Bill III Congress is gonna pass tomorrow.

People are not taking out loans like they used to because we are afraid we won't be able to afford the payments.

It's simple stuff like this that convinces me Congress, Treasury and the Fed are conspiring together to make the Bankers rich regardless of the damage it does to everyone else.

We now have the government Alexander Hamilton wanted. Ain't it a sight?

Wednesday, February 11

Congress Does What Jesus Can't

This is not original with me. I heard it from Guy Adami on Fast Money yesterday.

We all pretty much understand how much a million dollars is, and I guess we could all figure out how to spend a million dollars, right?

But does anyone really understand how much a trillion dollars is? Here's a little illustration.

If Jesus started spending a million dollars on the day he was born a little over two thousand years ago, and if he spent a million dollars a day, every single day since then, right up until today...

...He still wouldn't have spent a trillion dollars.

It'll be almost another thousand years before he is able to spend a trillion dollars, even at the rate of a million dollars a day.

But Congress is gonna spend a trillion dollars (that they don't have), to bail out the banks that lost trillions.

Makes you feel all warm inside, doesn't it?
Call your idiot Congressman and tell him that giving money to the same idiot bankers who got us into this mess is not a real good idea. Here's the links to find their contact information:

House of Representatives

Tuesday, February 10

Morons & Bastards

It's hard to imagine that there is a group of people more contemptible than Congresscritters, but Wall Street bankers have managed to fill that role. Now the morons in Congress are beating up on the bastards of Wall Street as if their own halos are tight and wings are secure.

In the immortal words of the bard, a pox on both their houses.

Your Daily Dose of Bad News

Layoff Daily. What a great idea.

Monday, February 9

Uncle Sam Wants to Pay Off Your Mortgage

Well, that's not exactly what the stimulus package is supposed to do, but the amount of money that the government is committing to "rescues", "bailouts" and "stimuli" is - according to Bloomberg, which has actually kept track of these things - NINE POINT SEVEN TRILLION DOLLARS. (I think it has a bit more impact when written out like that.) That's enough money to pay off 90% of the mortgages in the country.

Lemme ask a question: Would you be more likely to get out there in the economy and spend money if the government paid off 90% of your mortgage?

Uh huh, I thought so.

That ain't gonna happen, of course. Instead, the money is going to spent so that billionaire bankers don't have to sell their private jets to afford their third vacation home in the Bahamas.

Truly, if you are a banker who is not a miserable greedy lying bastard, you must be embarrassed beyond words. I'll bet you've been considering a job that held in higher esteem, like maybe becoming a used car salesman, or a pimp.

Tuesday, February 3

Best Analysis Yet

This analysis of our country's financial condition, by James Quinn, is the best I have read yet. Among the most salient points, since 1980:
  • The National Debt has grown by 1,150%
  • GDP has grown by 500%
  • Consumers have increased their total debt level by 738%
  • Revolving credit increased from $56 billion in 1980 to $982 billion
    today, a 1,750% increase
In other words, we've borrowed way too much money. And the money the government is spending to "stimulate the economy"? That will be borrowed as well. The change we can believe in is this: we will borrow and spend our way out of the largest debt bubble in history.

Quinn compares the US situation today to that of Japan in 1989 and concludes that we will be very lucky if we make out as well as Japan did.

If Wishes Were Nuts...

I've recently been involved with a group that is trying to exert influence over Arizona's budgeting process. State budgets are deadly dull things, right up until we find out that our state is insolvent. Then it gets exciting.

Things have been very exciting in Arizona lately.

The Center on Budget & Policy Priorities released a report indicating that 46 of 50 states are facing insolvency. Not mere "budget crunches" - actual insolvency. Arizona leads the pack with a budget shortfall that totals almost 16% of the general fund.

We wish it were different.

We wish we had enough money to pay for everything people want from their government. We wish we didn't have to exercise fiscal restraint. We wish we didn't have to make hard choices. We wish we didn't have to work so hard and get so little in return. We wish greedy people wouldn't shove and grab. We wish lazy people would work hard. We wish sick people would get well, and poor people would get rich, and bad people would behave, and good people would be even better. We wish someone else would fix it. We wish someone else would sacrifice. We wish that wishing would change things. We wish for a fairy godmother instead of self-discipline. We wish for strokes of good fortune instead of years of diligent labor. We wish for Easy Street and Happy Days instead of "nose to the ground", "hand to the plow" and "shoulder to the wheel".

For a long time, we've inhabited a fantasy world where dollar bills were equated with wealth, credit was the same as money, and good intentions were the same as good works.

We wish lies were the truth.

But all of our wishes and all of our good intentions have amounted to less than nothing. When Fantasy Worlds collide with the Real World, the Real World always always always always always wins. Fantasy is fine, as long as it is never exposed to the harsh ways of reality.

We have fantasized since August 15, 1971 that printing money was the same as creating wealth. We managed to avoid reality for 38 years. That's really quite impressive. But we can't do it anymore. Reality is here. The fantasy is over.

Arizona will be bankrupt within 4 months, unless we stop fantasizing.

Sorry folks, it's time to live in the real world again.