Notes Oct 20, 2008

October 21, 2008 § Leave a comment

Michael Hudson (I knew him briefly many years ago, in the 70’s) writes

It is a con game. Financial gains have soared since 1980, but banks and institutional investors have not used them to finance tangible capital formation. They simply have recycled their receipt of interest (and credit-card fees and penalties that often amount to as much as interest) into yet new loans, extracting yet more interest and so on. This financial extraction leaves less personal and business income to spend on consumer goods, capital goods and services. Sales shrink, causing defaults as the economy is less able to pay its stipulated interest charges. ….

The moral of ancient and modern history alike is that a critical point inevitably arrives at which economies either adopt hard creditor-oriented laws that impoverish the population and plunge downward socially and militarily, or save themselves by alleviating the debt burden. What is remarkable today is the almost total failure of political leaders to provide an alternative to  Paulson’s bailout of Wall Street from the Bear Stearns bankruptcy down through the government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to last week’s giveaway to the banks…..

Paulson depicted the government’s purchase of special non-voting stock as a European-style nationalization. But government’s appointed public representatives to the boards of European banks being bailed out. This has not happened in America. Bank lobbyists are reported to have approached Treasury to express their worry that their shareholdings might be diluted. But the Treasury-Democratic Party plan invests $250 billion in government credit in non-voting shares. If a recipient of this credit goes broke, the government is left the end of the line behind other creditors. Its “shares” are not real loans, but “preferred stock.” As  Paulson explained on Monday: “Government owning a stake in any private U.S. company is objectionable to most Americans – me included.” So the government’s shares are not even real stock, but a special “non-voting” issue. ….

Schumer verged on the ridiculous when he proclaimed: “We must operate in the same way any significant investor operates in these situations – when Warren Buffett invested in Goldman Sachs and General Electric in recent weeks, he demanded strict, but not onerous terms. The government must be similarly protective of taxpayer interests.” But  Buffett obtained a much better deal for his $5 billion investment in Goldman Sachs, including warrants to buy its stock at a price below the going price when he helped rescue the company. Likewise in England, the government took stock ownership at low prices before the bailout, not at higher prices after it! But instead of exercising its warrants at the depressed prices where bank stocks stood at the time  Paulson detailed the bailout terms, the U.S. Treasury would be able to exercise its warrants (equal to 15 percent of its investment) only at prices that were to be set after the banks had time to recover with the Treasury’s aid. Existing stockholders thus will benefit more than the government – which is why bank stocks soared on news of the bailout’s terms. ….

The imbalance between creditor demands and debtors’ ability to pay is indeed the problem.  Paulson claimed in his Monday address that he needed to get to the root of the economic problem. But in his view it is simply that the banks “are not positioned to lend as widely as is necessary to support our economy. Our goal is to see … that they can make more loans to businesses and consumers across the nation.”

9:32 pm

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US surrenders power to appoint World Bank president

Heather Stewart and Larry Elliott in Washington

The Guardian, Monday October 13 2008

The US is to lose its power to appoint the president of the World Bank after the UK’s development secretary, Douglas Alexander, brokered a deal to throw open the post to candidates from any country.

Backed by European governments and developing countries, Alexander overcame resistance from the US and Japan to secure a reform he described last night as "a significant step forward".

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You are currently reading Notes Oct 20, 2008 at Reflections on GardenWorld Politics Douglass Carmichael.

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