15 October 2008

The Practical Risk in the Fed and Treasury's 'Trickle Down" Approach

The 'trickle down' approach being taken by the Fed is in danger of not only failing to sustain the economy, but may precipitate a significant political crisis.

The current plan is to flood a few relatively large banks with public liquidity, without substantially changing their management, their charters, and their regulatory constraints.

What if these banks defer on lending to others as their primary objective, preferring instead to buy up valuable and productive non-financial assets on the cheap for their own speculative purposes? Or to provide the liquidity for their associated off-balance-sheet corporations to do the same, rather than funding organic growth?

Why would the banks limit themselves to commercial banking when they can still act like hedge funds buying assets and investing for their own tradebook and investment portfolios?

The short answer is that they always and everywhere have acted with their own interests first and foremost.

The obvious firms to watch are Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Why the Fed does not see this obvious moral hazard is astonishing. What is even more astonishing is that no one is calling out Paulson on this, who has a yawning conflict of interest with Goldman Sachs.

The inherent weakness in a centrally planned economy is that it invariably leads in distortion, corruption, and advantageous manipulation by insiders. To expect anything else is to ignore human nature and history.

The banks, our 'national champions,' must be constrained again as they were in the 1930's after their reckless speculation and credit expansion had financially decimated the nation's economy and the great majority of the public.