Counterfeiting is an effective way to stimulate the economy, but the costs can be quite high. For example, if trillions of dollars in fake cash was injected into the financial system (undetected), we’d probably see the same type of thing that we see when a credit bubble is inflating; asset prices would rise, unemployment would fall, economic activity would increase, and GDP would soar. But when people figured out what was going on, investors would panic, the markets would crash, and the economy would go into a deflationary nosedive.
So here’s the point: Deregulation allows the banks to create as much bogus money as they want in the form of credit. When a bank issues a loan to someone who can’t repay the debt, it’s counterfeiting, which is the same as stealing.
This is what the banks did in the lead-up to the Market Meltdown of ‘08; they issued trillions of dollars of mortgages to people who had no job, no income, no collateral, and a bad credit history. The banks abandoned all the standard criteria for issuing loans, so they could increase the quantity of loans they produced. Why? Because bankers get paid on the front-end of the transaction, which means that when they make a loan, they mark it as a credit on their books so they can draw a hefty salary and a fat bonus at the end of the year. In other words, there are powerful incentives for bankers to do the wrong thing, which is why they act the way they do.
Now that the economy has begun to stabilize, there are signs that the whole process is starting over again and another bubble is already emerging. Check out this clip from an article in The Tennessean titled “Auto lenders approve more subprime borrowers”: … //
… A Bank of America spokesman suggested that Allstate was “a sophisticated investor….looking for someone to blame.” But Allstate’s examination of a sample of the mortgages in each bundle found that Countrywide’s disclosures consistently understated such important indicators as the percentage of mortgages with low down payments or with no proof of the borrower’s income (so-called liar loans). And by Allstate’s analysis, Countrywide’s disclosures weren’t off by a little bit. For example, in 11 securities that were supposedly free of “underwater” mortgages, up to 14% of the loans turned out to be larger than the value of the house.” (”Housing Shocks”, editorial, Los Angeles Times)
The “sophisticated investor” defense is an excuse that fraudsters use when they’ve just ripped you off. They say, “I thought you were smarter than that. I thought you were a “sophisticated investor.”…which just dumps a little salt in the wound.
The truth is, Countrywide clipped Allstate for $700 million in garbage loans and now claims that it procured the money “fair and square”. Right. But they do have a point. In a system where there are no rules, anything goes. Allstate might lose their suit simply because the laws now mainly protect the interests of the predators rather than the victims. The banks are free to whip-up their junk debt-instruments (comprised of liar’s loans etc) and peddle them to anyone who is gullible enough to invest their money. It’s a con-game.
One last example. Many people have noticed that there was a slight uptick in credit in the Fed’s latest report. That’s good, right? But, as it turns out, the only area where credit really improved was student loans which grew about 80% year-over-year, or roughly $120 billion. So why the sudden and explosive growth in student loans? The answer appeared on an economics blog called benzinga.com via firedoglake. Here’s an excerpt:
“The Federal Family Education Loan program FFEL* allows private financial institutions to provide students with loans, but the government assumes the risk of default, and pays the financial fees while the student attends college. This amounts to privatized gains combined with socialized loans.
Under the FFEL program, financial institutions like Sallie Mae, Bank of America, National Education Loan Network, JPMorgan Chase, Wachovia, and Wells Fargo would originate these FFEL loans with students, and then sell them on the secondary credit market. In 2008, the credit market dried up, and the private lenders had nowhere to sell these government guaranteed loans. So, the government stepped in to buy up these loans and protect a program that was already a massively wasteful corporate boondoggle.
The bailout was authorized with HR 5715 Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act (ECASLA). The bill allowed for the Department of Eduction to produce three different programs, the Loan Purchase Commitment Program, the Loan Participation Purchase Program, and a buyer-of-last-resort Asset-Backed Commercial Paper Conduit.
This purchase program — which amounted to the department of education buying privately-originated student loans that were intended to be securitized but now could not be — was radically expanded in 2009 and 2010, with a purchase amount target of about (you guessed it) $120bn. (The hidden message of the consumer credit release).
So, there is no improvement in credit. Not really. It’s just more backdoor bailouts that are dolled up to look like things are getting better. But things aren’t getting better; we’ve simply restored the same crisis-prone wholesale credit system (”shadow banking”) with trillions of dollars of government subsidies, bailouts, stimulus and guarantees, and now we are speeding towards the next big collision. That’s not what I’d call “economic recovery”. I’d call it stupidity. (full long text).
(Check out Whitney’s economics blog at Grasping at Straws).