24 February 2009

Coup d'Etat by Crisis

"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves." William Pitt (1759-1806)

Quite the dire, almost inflammatory piece from Time Magazine. It certainly paints Bank of America, Citigroup, General Motors, and AIG in a bad, almost villainous light.

It is time to for a real change. It is time to stop allowing the country to be held hostage by a relatively small number of financiers who have gamed the system and corrupted the regulatory and legislative process. It is time to stop allowing those deeply involved with the problem to manage the investigation and the solutions.

Put the money center banks into a managed restructuring, and stop calling it nationalization, which wrongfully suggests the British socialism of the post World War II era. We did not have to use that sort of language or raise these emotional issues when the Savings and Loan scandal was cleared.

Let's get this open sore cleaned, bound and stitched.

But one thing we might wish to keep in mind is that it may not be AIG, BAC, and C that are pulling the strings, that are at the center of this. They look more like patsies than prime motivators.

Transparency would be interesting in this case with regards to the CDS market and the derivatives markets.

Who has the most to gain and lose if Citi, Bank of America, and AIG are put into managed restructuring? Who has the most and biggest bets on their failure?

Let's have transparency of positions now. And we cannot afford to take anyone's word on this.

The real sticking point is not the shareholders or managers of these companies, although they may be making the most noise at this point.

We will be surprised, if transparency is actually provided, and new and independent regulators armed with the full array of investigative tools, dig into this mess to see where the strings lead, if we do not find many of them in the hands of the other major Wall Street banks, media giants, and corporate conglomerates, among others.

We will keep an open mind, but do not expect any light or serious new information to come from these Congressional Committees with their circus, show trial atmosphere.

Time to bring back Glass-Steagall and to enforce the Sherman Anti-Trust laws. Time to compel the three or four banks to unwind their trillions in opaque derivatives. Time to audit the Federal Reserve, and clarify their role in our system to them, and nail a copy of the Constitution to their front door.

We do not need or want fewer, bigger, more powerful banks as a drag on the real economy, taking a tax on each transaction whether it be through credit cards or fees or loans or subsidies.

Time for a real change. Time to remind Congress where the power and legitimacy of their offices resides. Time for the lobbyists, corrupt regulators, corporate princes and the enablers and motivators of this grand theft to find a place in an unemployment line or a witness stand.

We must demand action from the Congress and the Administration who we recently put in place through the elections to clean this mess up and then change the system that delivered it.

Contact the White House

Contact Your Senator

We do not want fewer, bigger banks exacting a fee on every commericial transaction in this country.

1. Bring back Glass-Steagall.

2. Clean up the derivatives mess, starting with J.P. Morgan.

3. Enforce the various anti-trust laws, enacting new ones where necessary, and break up the media and banking conglomerates.

4. Enact aggregate position limits in all commodity markets and transparency with immediate disclosure of all position over 5% in any market.

5. Effective restrictions and enforcement of naked short selling, price manipulation, reinstatement of the 'uptick rule,' the prohibition of regulated banks from engaging in any speculative markets either for themselves or as agents, and usury laws and regulation of all interstate financial transactions at the national level.

And for the sake of the country, establish a vision, a model, of what the system should look like in accord with the Constitution. And then strike out for it, as painful as that may be, and stop this management by crisis, and weaving a shroud for our freedom out of a web of endless fixes, concessions and necessities.

"If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace." Thomas Paine

AIG's Plan to Bleed the Government Dry

By Douglas A. McIntyre
Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009

Management at AIG has calculated exactly how much money the Treasury and Fed will have access to after all of the TARP, financial stimulus, and mortgage bailout projects have been funded. The insurance company then plans to ask for whatever is left to fund its deficits so that it can stay in business, effectively making the federal government insolvent.

According to CNBC, AIG is about to post another huge loss. "Sources close to the company said the loss will be near $60 billion due to writedowns on a variety of assets including commercial real estate." The financial channel also reports that the need for capital may be so great that AIG might have to enter Chapter 11, something the government has spent over $130 billion trying to prevent.

Just like Detroit, Bank of America (BAC), and Citigroup (C), AIG is playing a game of chicken with Washington that the government does not feel it can afford to lose. Imagine what it would be like if all of these businesses failed at the same time.

It is actually worth imagining. The government has so many balls in the air between the financial systems and deteriorating parts of the industrial sector that it may not have either the capital or intellectual capacity to go around. The Treasury has just appointed a prominent investment banker to help oversee the mess in Detroit, but it would take an army of financiers to first comprehend and then advise on what should happen to GM (GM) and Chrysler. The period for comprehension is already in the past. The trouble in the auto industry has to be addressed in the next few weeks or its capacity to operate will go up in flames.

The government made noises about taking a larger position in Citigroup (C). Based on the market's reaction, not may analysts and investors believe that the action will solve much. The poison of bad investments is in the blood of the financial system. Quarantining Citigroup will not solve that problem. The Treasury and Fed will have to take a holistic approach which involves healing the entire financial system. It is not clear that can even be done. How it would be done is an even more complicated matter.

The Little Dutch Boy is running out of fingers. The water that threatens to swamp the international financial system is getting closer to breaching the walls and pouring in. A month ago that seemed inconceivable. Now the odds that the government will have to allow large operations like AIG go into bankruptcy are fairly high. The trouble with that is not what will happen to AIG. As the market found out with the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, many of the firms that are doing business with a very large financial institution when it becomes insolvent can have transactions worth billions of dollars wither voided or devalued.

In the intricate global financial system, there is no such things as one big player going down in a vacuum.