Posts Tagged ‘fed’
Bloomberg has a good article today about how our favorite Fed Chief, Mr. Bernanke, is trying to allay calls for a Fed audit by offering more “transparency”. Let’s see what he has in mind:
The Fed will support legislation to let government auditors probe six temporary programs created to combat the financial crisis such as the Primary Dealer Credit Facility, Bernanke said yesterday in House testimony. While he would support the delayed release of names of firms getting aid from those programs, he said banks borrowing through the longstanding discount window must be allowed to remain anonymous.
Bernanke’s move toward greater openness may not dissuade lawmakers who want the Fed to disclose more information about the Fed’s lending and policy decisions. Lawmakers are responding to public anger over the Fed’s role in the $182.3 billion bailout of American International Group Inc.
“He is definitely trying to defuse the Ron Paul issue,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Chicago-based Mesirow Financial Inc., which oversees $37.4 billion in assets. “The best he can do at the moment is to play more offense than defense.”
Does he really expect us to buy this bullshit? If that’s what he calls “transparency”, I’ve got some water from the Ganges to sell him. The whole point of this Fed audit is to see what they did with the money we don’t know about. Specifically, we’d like to know about money that was lent under the table to the European union to prevent it from collapsing. And George Washington, over at ZeroHedge, tips us off to $12 Billion in Federal Reserve dollars (cash money, yo) that mysteriously went to Iraq during 2003-2004. Whom did they send it to? Why? These are the questions an audit is supposed to answer.
Releasing hand-picked data from 6 controversial Fed programs tells us nothing. The flimsy excuse Bernanke gives us for why he shouldn’t be audited is that it would have a “bad effect on markets”, and give the impression that Fed policy is subject to “political pressure”. Hey, idiot! I think that “impression” has already been effectively created. You remember reducing the benchmark lending rate to zero, and then keeping it that way for two years? Yeah, that was pretty much political. And what were the bailouts, then? Oh, yeah, political. Man, this is such a convenient excuse – any time someone suggests oversight, all you have to do is say the word “political” and poof! Oversight vanishes.
The Fed needs a full, meaningful audit if we’re going to get any semblance of economic balance back. These days of unlimited money must end.
(c/o The Daily Digest)
Ron Paul makes sense (on this, at least):
Is it possible that our Federal Reserve has had some hand in bailing out Greece? The fact is, we don’t know, and current laws exempt agreements between the Fed and foreign central banks from disclosure or audit.
Greece is only the latest in a series of countries that have faced this type of crisis in recent memory. Not too long ago the same types of fears were mounting about Dubai, and before that, Iceland. Several other countries (Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Latvia) are approaching crisis levels with public debt as well. Many have strong ties to Goldman Sachs and the case could easily be made that default could have serious implications for big US banking cartels. Considering the ties between the Fed and these big banks, it is not outlandish to wonder if the US taxpayer is secretly bailing out the entire world, country by country, even as our real unemployment tops 20 percent. Unless laws are changed to allow a complete and meaningful audit of the Federal Reserve, including its agreements with foreign central banks, we might never know if this is occurring or not.
The point is, we don’t know. In fact, we know very little about what the Federal Reserve does with the trillions and trillions of dollars in cash that it’s empowered to print and distribute as it sees fit. I remember a couple months ago people were seriously discussing whether or not to audit the Fed. This never happened, and after a couple weeks people just stopped paying attention and turned their gaze to the next shiny object on the horizon.
Without a meaningful audit of the Federal Reserve, we will never know where our money goes. The Fed, as we all know, as been bestowed massive new powers as a result of this crisis (which they helped cause), and this makes an audit all the more important. I guess I would suggest you phone your congressperson about this, but we all know how much good that’ll do.
Dean Baker makes a catch that nearly every mainstream outlet declines to report: jobless claims are up more than 31,000 from last week. In other news, the Federal Reserve, whose stated job it is to keep unemployment “low” (usually defined as 4.0%) is failing miserably at its job. What’s worse, it seems to consider employment a secondary concern, particularly if this Times article is any indication.
I hasten to remind my readers that by law, the Fed is required to do all it can to keep unemployment as near to 4% or below. Its unseemly focus on “bank stability” and “inflation” are illegal. Maybe someone should inform Mr. Bernanke.
“I really didn’t get it until very late in 2005 and 2006.”
Reuters (13 September 2007), “Greenspan says didn’t see subprime storm brewing“
Thanks, Alan. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.
Bloomberg has a fantastic front-page report on Treasury Secretary Geithner’s latest abuses. I mentioned previously that Geithner was instrumental in AIG receiving 100 cents on the dollar in their bailout. Essentially, the Federal Reserve agreed to print the full value of AIG’s misbegotten “derivatives” and hand it to them, no questions asked. AIG initially indicated it was willing to “get a haircut” (that is, receive 95 or even 90 cents for every dollar they lost gambling), but quickly backpedaled when it became clear the Fed was going to bail them out 100%.
Now Bloomberg reports that in addition to giving AIG an essentially blank cheque, Geithner instructed AIG to deceive the public on who their “counter-parties” were, on who would benefit from the AIG bailout. Much as the Banking Trusts of the 1920s, our mega-conglomerates today are heavily invested in one another – a bailout to one goes to pay back its creditors elsewhere in the banking system. This proved invaluable in convincing the public to bail AIG out. As Machiavelli wrote, if one must rule by robbery, it is best to conduct a big crime all at once, rather than small ones continuously. By giving a massive ($200 billion +) bailout to AIG, the government could thereby distribute their gift to other banks (the “counter-parties”) without the attention of the public, whose ire would be focused solely on AIG.
Later it turned out that Goldman Sachs, the firm which regularly gets to choose the Treasury Secretary (Geither was their first choice, and his predecessor, Hank Paulson, worked at Goldman for 35 years), was one of the AIG counterparties.
One of the most salient passages in Hugh Son’s excellent article, way up high in the 3rd paragraph:
The New York Fed took over negotiations between AIG and the banks in November 2008 as losses on the swaps, which were contracts tied to subprime home loans, threatened to swamp the insurer weeks after its taxpayer-funded rescue. The regulator decided that Goldman Sachs and more than a dozen banks would be fully repaid for $62.1 billion of the swaps, prompting lawmakers to call the AIG rescue a “backdoor bailout” of financial firms.
“It appears that the New York Fed deliberately pressured AIG to restrict and delay the disclosure of important information,” said Issa, a California Republican. Taxpayers “deserve full and complete disclosure under our nation’s securities laws, not the withholding of politically inconvenient information.”
So it seems obvious that Geithner did not want the public to know the extent of Goldman Sach’s involvement with this bogus “derivative” scheme, likely so as not to tarnish Goldman’s image of having never received a bailout.
But whatever the reason, this latest report adds to the already exhaustive list of opacity, malfeasance, and outright cronyism that has plagued this crisis. We cannot approach any semblance of fair economic policy (let alone fantasies of a “free market”), if one corporation regularly gets to appoint Treasury officials and make policy.
The Times ran a fantastic article last week which I think deserves a careful look, as it presents in uncharacteristically sharp terms the economic situation before us.
They begin with some fun facts:
With the national debt now topping $12 trillion, the White House estimates that the government’s tab for servicing the debt will exceed $700 billion a year in 2019, up from $202 billion this year, even if annual budget deficits shrink drastically. Other forecasters say the figure could be much higher.
In concrete terms, an additional $500 billion a year in interest expense would total more than the combined federal budgets this year for education, energy, homeland security and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
$700 Billion, as many must recall, was the magical “really big number” Bush and Paulson sold us last September, promising that we likely shouldn’t spend it all, and will probably “see a return on our investment”. I remember the awe with which we once held the TARP program: “$700 Billion, have they lost their minds?” None of us (certainly not I) could have fathomed such a large sum being spent at one time. It is a testament, then, to our infinite ability to adapt that $700 Billion no longer seems so very great, and we can swallow easily the prospect of such an annual payment.
The Times is somewhat disingenuous in claiming $500 billion a year to be “greater than the combined federal budgets for… Iraq and Afghanistan”. As The Times are surely aware, President Obama recently signed a $680 Billion war bill in October, with (according to The Times), “$550 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget in fiscal 2010 and $130 billion more for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” But I digress.
Much of this new debt, as The Times is kind enough to report, has to do with the massive dumping of cash onto the open market via the Federal Reserve. Euphemistically, the article states:
“The government is on teaser rates,” said Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan group that advocates lower deficits. “We’re taking out a huge mortgage right now, but we won’t feel the pain until later.”
“Teaser rates” of course, means lending at 0% interest, essentially lending for free. This is the policy our Fed has chosen over the past year. It, combined with the trillions of untraceable dollars injected into our five major banks, have expanded the Treasury beyond anything previously imaginable. As the article claims:
On top of that, the Fed used almost every tool in its arsenal to push interest rates down even further. It cut the overnight federal funds rate, the rate at which banks lend reserves to one another, to almost zero. And to reduce longer-term rates, it bought more than $1.5 trillion worth of Treasury bonds and government-guaranteed securities linked to mortgages.
What this all means, what the Times doesn’t see fit to mention, is that the US government is bankrupt. That’s it. Our liabilities overshadow our assets, our debts are greater than our ability to pay them; we are underwater, over our heads, sunk.
And we aren’t the only ones:
The United States will not be the only government competing to refinance huge debt. Japan, Germany, Britain and other industrialized countries have even higher government debt loads, measured as a share of their gross domestic product, and they too borrowed heavily to combat the financial crisis and economic downturn. As the global economy recovers and businesses raise capital to finance their growth, all that new government debt is likely to put more upward pressure on interest rates.
It looks like the US and Europe will be coming to terms with some hard realizations next decade.
I missed the last three failed bank Fridays, so here are all seventeen that failed in the past three weeks in a row. As always, from the FDIC:
|Pacific Coast National Bank||San Clemente||CA||57914||November 13, 2009||November 18, 2009|
|Orion Bank||Naples||FL||22427||November 13, 2009||November 17, 2009|
|Century Bank, F.S.B.||Sarasota||FL||32267||November 13, 2009||November 18, 2009|
|United Commercial Bank||San Francisco||CA||32469||November 6, 2009||November 9, 2009|
|Gateway Bank of St. Louis||St. Louis||MO||19450||November 6, 2009||November 9, 2009|
|Prosperan Bank||Oakdale||MN||35074||November 6, 2009||November 9, 2009|
|Home Federal Savings Bank||Detroit||MI||30329||November 6, 2009||November 9, 2009|
|United Security Bank||Sparta||GA||22286||November 6, 2009||November 9, 2009|
|North Houston Bank||Houston||TX||18776||October 30, 2009||November 3, 2009|
|Madisonville State Bank||Madisonville||TX||33782||October 30, 2009||November 3, 2009|
|Citizens National Bank||Teague||TX||25222||October 30, 2009||November 3, 2009|
|Park National Bank||Chicago||IL||11677||October 30, 2009||November 3, 2009|
|Pacific National Bank||San Francisco||CA||30006||October 30, 2009||November 3, 2009|
|California National Bank||Los Angeles||CA||34659||October 30, 2009||November 3, 2009|
|San Diego National Bank||San Diego||CA||23594||October 30, 2009||November 3, 2009|
|Community Bank of Lemont||Lemont||IL||35291||October 30, 2009||November 3, 2009|
|Bank USA, N.A.||Phoenix||AZ||32218||October 30, 2009|