Sunday, September 28, 2008

Failure to Communicate

March of the Unemployed in Perth, Western Australia in 1931

The financial crisis and its possible solution have been very poorly explained to the American people. As a result, people think that the proposed solution is about saving financial services firms in order to prop up the stock market. When the issue is actually about arresting the spiral down into a Depression due to collapsing credit and money markets. And those of us in the rest of the world would also suffer the impact due to the interconnectedness of financial markets. For example, Australian banks get a large percentage of their financing for loans in Australia from foreign investors. Less than half comes from Australian depositors.

I'm not criticizing Boston Gal, it's just that she states the common perception very clearly, whereas most Americans just seem to be angry. I think the contribution of the Democrats in Congress will result in a much improved program, though noone really knows if it will work all the same. Other countries such as Sweden and Israel have effectively nationalized their banking systems after such crises before eventually reprivatizing them. The details of each case were different though. I think a combination of what is currently planned combined with a Swedish type program would be the most efficient use of public money based on what I understand.


financeninja said...

moom. i DO understand that the media is making American's think they are fixing wall st., but what we aren't focusing on is the credit problem. the U.S. in general can't you admit is over spent? if we had a businessman as a president i don't think things would be the same. wall st. has been doing great it is just getting pounded by so much bad news. i look at stocks like Wachovia (WB), a huge east coast bank (my bank), and it will soon be heading towards $1. this does not make any sense. this also makes me believe the credit crisis is very real although i'm having a hard time believing it. i think congress will keep arguing and not much of a plan will take action any time soon.

mOOm said...

Umm the US did have a businessman as president for the last eight years! Well he did have an MBA and had run a business or two in the past. There are fundamental problems with both borrowers and lenders. People borrowed too much but lenders were willing to give too large loans to just all kinds of people who shouldn't have got them. So all these banks that did that and those that then rebought these loans from them all screwed up. And so some of them have gone to zero or will do so. OTOH the market price of mortgage backed securities can be irrationally low at the moment and the Paulson/Bernanke plan is going to try to fix that. And banks like Washington Mutual were partly pulled down by customers withdrawing deposits irrationally given FDIC insurance. Some other sectors of the US economy, especially export oriented ones are still doing fine though. Looks like Congress has agreed on a plan that will be implemented.

Andrew Stevens said...

Looks like you spoke too soon, though the bill that passed the Senate today, I think, will pass the House this time. But I don't want to put too much money on that (especially considering how much money I've already lost since June).

Thanks for this post, by the way. I'm not necessarily a fan of the bill passed in the Senate, but the international financial system desperately needs an injection of capital in the form of "helicopter money" since monetary policy is inadequate to handle the problem. The only entity on the face of the planet with the credit to inject this capital is the United States federal government. How they do it is relatively unimportant so long as they do it.

May I apologize, by the way, for the behavior of my countrymen and its negative impact on you and everyone else in the world. I am embarrassed by the lack of leadership we have seen on both sides of our interminable political debate and I can only plead that the probable cause is the election coming up in a month and a seriously weakened President who, at least this time, is trying to do the right thing, but whom nobody trusts an inch. Not even his own party. Combine that with one Presidential candidate who recklessly directly injected himself into the situation, with all the baggage of partisan politics that this brought (though he did improve the bill) and another Presidential candidate who kept unhelpfully drawing careful distinctions between "Wall Street" and "Main Street" and ensuring that all of his supporters who listened to him opposed the bill even though he said he was for it. Add to that Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, who, when trying to pass a bipartisan bill, decided to give a ferociously partisan speech in the well of the House. ("They claim to be free market advocates, when it's really an anything goes mentality. No regulation, no supervision, no discipline. And if you fail, you will have a golden parachute, and the taxpayer will bail you out.") Plus a House Democrat in charge of the elections promising to use the vote against any Republican who voted for the bill. And those two were for the bill! This is not to exonerate the Republicans, many of whom, in the House anyway, really are free market fundamentalists (unlike G.W. Bush who claims to be, but in fact signed, in Sarbanes-Oxley, the most sweeping regulations this country has since FDR) and, contra Pelosi (and Bush), these Republicans genuinely do oppose bailouts and, myopically, were unwilling or unable to understand why this one was necessary. And, of course, many of them were simply cowards who knew that the bill was for the best, but voted against it for fear of losing their jobs. And, of course, there's Secretary of the Treasury Paulson who, at least in hindsight, it is quite clear now acted unwisely when he allowed Lehman Brothers to fail and then comes asking Congress to trust him and he'll solve the problem all by himself.

I have been patiently explaining to my friends on the left that this bill is not just about giving money to fat cat failures on Wall Street and patiently explaining to my friends on the right that this bill is not about socialism and socializing the losses that are inevitable in the bust of an economic cycle. I seem to have little effect, but perhaps the stock market fall and the increasingly apparent credit crisis has shocked some sense into people.

By the way, I do believe the Democrats improved the bill by adding provisions about equity warrants. This also will help capitalization and provides more certain upside for the American taxpayer when this is all over with. Meanwhile the Republicans were able to curb the Democrats' worst excesses when Barney Frank and Chris Dodd tried to light up the bill like a Christmas tree with goodies for their favored special interests. So the bill that emerged is not a terrible one, all in all.