Archive for the ‘banks’ Category

Where Are the Leaders?

March 29, 2009

You wake up in the morning and once again the financial weather report calls for the Apocalypse followed by brief showers of despair. Seeking a ray of hope, you turn on the television and settle in to watch a Capitol Hill hearing. There in the hot seat is the man who holds the entire U.S. economy in his hands. And he looks like Harry Potter.

By David Rothkopf
The Washington Post

You wake up in the morning and once again the financial weather report calls for the Apocalypse followed by brief showers of despair. Seeking a ray of hope, you turn on the television and settle in to watch a Capitol Hill hearing. There in the hot seat is the man who holds the entire U.S. economy in his hands. And he looks like Harry Potter.
US bank chiefs to meet with President Obama

Go online, meanwhile, and you find the HTML version of the French Revolution, with left and right calling for poor Tim to be strung from a lamppost. You actually start feeling sorry for the guy. Arianna Huffington snipes that “the issue isn’t his delivery, it’s what he’s delivering.” Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz concludes that Geithner’s plan “amounts to robbery of the American people.” Next you find Connie Mack, Republican senator from Florida, fulminating that “quite simply, the Timothy Geithner experience has been a disaster. . . . America needs and deserves a Treasury secretary who can truly lead us forward.”

On that point, at least, he’s right. We do need strong leadership. The world is in chaos. There are riots from Greece to China. Iceland has collapsed, and Mexico teeters on the edge. Pakistan is broke, melting down and awash in nukes. Yes, the stock market soared with Geithner’s toxic asset plan, but didn’t he and Obama dismiss Wall Street’s response when the first version of the bank bailout landed with a thud last month? Don’t we hate Wall Street? Obama and Geithner subsidize hedge funds on Monday and come back with heavy regulations on Thursday. What gives?

In this March 12, 2009, file photo Treasury Secretary Timothy ...

Gradually it becomes clear. This is not just a global economic crisis. It’s a global leadership crisis. Obama is still finding his footing, Gordon Brown is on his way out, Hugo Chávez is nuts and Wall Street management is larcenous. Isn’t there someone somewhere with decent values, a firm hand on the tiller and at least one big new idea? Where have all the leaders gone?

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/cont
ent/article/2009/03/26/AR20090326034
22.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

Advertisements

Do we want to revive our economy, or do we want to punish the bankers?

March 28, 2009

The liberal backlash against President Barack Obama has begun with many prominent left-leaning economists in the US attacking the administration’s plans to bail out the banks.

Paul Krugman describes the toxic asset purchase plan as “cash for trash”. Jeffrey Sachs calls it “a thinly veiled attempt to transfer hundreds of billions of US taxpayer funds to the commercial banks”. Robert Reich depicts Tim Geithner, Treasury secretary, as a prisoner of Wall Street while Joe Stiglitz says the plan “amounts to robbery of the American people”.

By Edward Luce
FT
On the blogosphere and beyond, Democratic economists accuse Mr Obama – along with Mr Geithner, and Lawrence Summers, the president’s senior economic adviser – of taking dictation from the same financiers who have brought the economy to the brink of depression.

Mr Reich, who was Bill Clinton’s Labour secretary in the 1990s before resigning over the former president’s reluctance to pursue a strong public investment agenda, says that he and his colleagues fear a replay of the Clinton years under Mr Obama.

Mr Reich now talks of the “Paulson-Geithner approach” to demonstrate what he sees as the continuity between Hank Paulson, George W. Bush’s last Treasury secretary, and the current administration. Mr Reich says bank nationalisation is the only answer to today’s crisis.

“Bill Clinton chose to pursue a set of policies that Wall Street agreed with but at the expense of his long-term agenda of boosting public investment,” says Mr Reich. “Bill Clinton’s Wall Street agenda in the end brought America and the world crashing down with it. I hope we are not seeing history repeat itself with Mr Obama.”

Not every Democrat agrees. Brad DeLong, a former Clinton official, says that every banking crisis – barring the Great Depression – has been resolved by government recapitalisation of the banking sector, as Mr Obama is likely to attempt in the near future.

Nor, says Mr DeLong, is it fair to paint Mr Geithner as a creature of Wall Street.

“Hank Paulson is a man who grew up in American finance and cannot imagine a world in which America does well and its financial sector does badly,” he says.

“Tim Geithner, by contrast, is a bureaucrat and a policymaker. He has never pulled down a multibillion-dollar bonus. They are not the same type of people.”

But in reality the division is as much political as economic. Most of Mr Obama’s liberal critics argue he should have gone to Congress already and asked for a lot of money for bank recapitalisation. His defenders say that would be political suicide until the populist mood on Capitol Hill has died down.

“We have to ask ourselves: Do we want to revive our economy, or do we want to punish the bankers?” says Mr DeLong. “I don’t agree that we can do both.”

London Protesters Threaten Bankers, Evoke Executions

March 27, 2009

Mark Barrett, a professional tour guide, spent last Saturday painting Barack Obama’s election catchphrase “yes we can” on a banner that protesters will carry as they try to occupy London’s financial district April 1.

Barrett is helping organize a protest outside the Bank of England, one of several called to express anger against banks and bankers and mark the arrival in London of leaders of the Group of 20 nations — including Obama, now president.

By Thomas Penny and Brian Lysaght
Bloomberg

“We want a very English revolution,” he says from a café near his home in north London. “The first English revolution in 1649 was about winning sovereignty for parliament over the king.” Now, protesters are campaigning for sovereignty for everyone.

All police leave has been canceled to increase security and financial workers have been told to wear casual clothes amid warnings that protests could turn violent.

“There are a lot of hacked-off people,” said Mike Bowron, commander of the City of London Police. “There’s potential for disruption and certain individual groups see violence as their raison d’etre.”

The global economic slump has raised unemployment to more than 2 million in the U.K., with more people joining jobless rolls last month than at any time since 1971. The economy shrank 1.6 percent in the fourth quarter, the most since 1980, and there is growing anger at the more than 40 billion pounds ($58 billion) the government has injected into ailing banks while insuring 585 billion pounds more in risky assets.

Beheading Charles I

Class War, an anarchist newspaper, has produced a special edition to promote the protest with an image of former Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc CEO Fred Goodwin, whose house was vandalized this week, on a guillotine under the headline “Ready to Riot.” Another shows people dancing around a fire with the slogan “How to keep warm in the credit crunch — Burn a Banker!” Public anger erupted at Goodwin’s 703,000 pounds annual pension after RBS was bailed out by the government.

The English Revolution culminated with the beheading of Charles I in 1649, ending the so-called divine right of kings in England. Today’s protesters say they draw inspiration from 17th century radicalism.

Four marches will converge on the Bank of England at midday on April 1 for a protest the organizers call “Financial Fools Day.” At the same time, there are plans for a blockade of the European Climate Exchange, in Bishopsgate, to protest against the market in carbon emissions.

Clog Up the Roads

“There’s an avowed intention on their behalf on the 1st of April to stop the City either by just clogging up the roads and preventing people getting into work or, if they’re allowed to, getting into some of those institutions,” said Commander Bob Broadhurst of the Metropolitan Police, who is in charge of the policing operation.

“What we’re seeing is unprecedented planning amongst protest groups,” he told reporters on March 21. “There are some clever, innovative people with lots of ideas.”

Police, who are detailed to provide security for the world leaders attending the April 2 G20 summit at the Excel Conference Centre in east London, will also have to deal with a labor union-organized protest march to Hyde Park tomorrow, demonstrations at the conference center itself and an anti-war march on the U.S. Embassy.

Around 10,500 officers will be available during the week….

Read the rest:
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/ne
ws?pid=20601110&sid=aBXS1tLJEC4A

Related:
http://michellemalkin.com/2009/03/2
7/the-coming-g20-riots-the-spread-of-mob-rule/

 Anger, Lawlessness Fueling U.S., Global Economic Revolution?

Social Unrest: Hurt by Economy, Europeans Vent Their Anger

 Obama Buys Into Anger, Fear as Political Tool

A university professor who is organising a protest at next week’s G20 summit was suspended from his job after warning bankers could be “hanging from lampposts”, a spokesman said Friday.

University of East London professor of anthropology Chris Knight told the BBC that demonstrators would be “hanging a lot of people” during protests in London against the summit next Thursday.

“Professor Chris Knight has been suspended from his duties at the University of East London, pending investigation,” a university spokesman told AFP. “In order not to prejudice this process we cannot make any further comment.”

Read the rest:
http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?i
d=CNG.3d0f93885e25228857d515468
22cbc2f.101&show_article=1

What’s Behind the Geithner Debate?

March 27, 2009

If the United States was an aircrft, Obama has already touched every dial and lever in the cockpit.  And what does that mean?  Only one thing for sure: Uncertainty.  And a lack of confidence.  That’s why businesses are not yet rehiring and people are holding on to their money.  People are looking for more certainty and Geithner at Treasury isn’t offering that….

***********************

By Will Marshall
Real Clear Politics

Progressives, who have so far marched in rare lockstep behind President Obama, are falling out over Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s plan to get credit flowing again. At issue are conflicting visions of exactly what kind of economy should emerge on the other side of today’s crisis.

Pundits and columnists traffic in certitudes, but the rest of us can be forgiven for not knowing whether the Geithner plan will actually work. We’re in terra incognita here, and analogies to the Great Crash of 1929, or more recent banking crises in Japan and Sweden, may be of limited utility. Amid all the complexity and uncertainty, the debate over Geithner’s proposal is a kind of ideological ink-blot test.

Some liberal critics charge that it is nothing more than a continuation of the Bush-Paulson policy of propping up failed banks and financial institutions until the crisis somehow resolves itself. They question whether Geithner, a former governor of the New York Federal Reserve, is capable of administering sufficiently harsh medicine to his former peers in the realm of high finance. Many conservatives, relieved by the voters of primary responsibility for fixing the mess, are hoping to exploit populist anger over the massive wealth transfer from taxpayers to Wall Street.

The essence of Geithner’s plan is to reanimate the market for the securitized mortgages and other loans that no one wants to buy now. Until banks can take these toxic assets off their books, they won’t be able to resume lending. Geithner proposes to use what’s left of the TARP (Troubled Assets Relief Fund) money to entice private actors, such as hedge funds, to buy the assets.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.  (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The basic idea here is that these private money-managers will do a better job of pricing the assets than the government ever could. If the spoiled assets regain their value, these private buyers win–but so do taxpayers, who would no longer have to foot the whole bill for the failures of the past.

Conversely, if the assets do not regain their value, then everybody loses. Well, almost everybody. In order to persuade private buyers to take the plunge into the toxic pool, the Geithner plan insures them against downside risk.

Despite their admiration of Obama, many liberals are unhappy with this arrangement. They decry the plan as yet another subsidy to the very people whose reckless risk-taking in search of outsized profits got us into this mess. They complain that Geithner’s plan is, at best, a palliative that doesn’t address the underlying cause of seized-up credit markets — namely, the fact that major U.S. banks are, for all practical purposes, insolvent. Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard law professor who heads the panel Congress set up to oversee TARP, likens the Geithner plan to an IV drip for “zombie banks.”

Putting the big banks on life support, in this view, merely prolongs the agony and could lead to a long period of Japanese-style stagnation. Better to follow the sterner Swedish model: Nationalize insolvent banks, wipe out equity holders, and return a smaller number of healthy banks with clean balance sheets to private hands.

But nationalization could wind up costing taxpayers a fortune, while also causing collateral damage to the secondary market for securities backed by mortgages in other loans. Congress’ hot-headed reaction to the AIG bonus scandal did little to inspire confidence in the federal government’s ability to manage financial companies. Furthermore, Obama’s economic team seems willing to bet that bank assets are worth more than today’s depressed market prices suggest.

In short, Obama and Geithner are working to restore the financial sector as it existed roughly a decade ago….

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/realclearpolit
ics/20090326/cm_rcp/whats_behin
d_the_geithner_deba

Related:
http://michellemalkin.com/2009/03
/27/the-strange-sacking-of-a-to
p-treasury-official/

Obama, Geithner, Summers Plan for “Toxic Assets” May be Toxic Itself

March 27, 2009

 Barack Obama’s economic team is in serious  jeopardy  of getting bogged down as they attempt to extricate America from the “toxic asset,” bad bank and financial crisis.The objective is to get lending going and they centerpiece is trust and confidence.

Obama is banking that his strong poll numbers will translate into the public trust and confidence he’ll need to reform, some say overhaul, and some say radically attack the financial system and Wall Street.

But pollster Frank Luntz and others say although the public approves of Obama himself, they reject some of his policies.

It could just be that Geithener, Larry Summers and Barney Frank are ill suited to carrying the load they are under.  And then again, maybe they created a load that is a load of c**p.

The Geithner, Summers, Obama plan may be too radical, too complex and too elusive to even explain — if and when the details become known….

*****************

“You’re talking about seizing private businesses and you don’t consider that radical?” Manzullo [Rep. Donalsd Manzullo; R-Ill] replied, his voice rising.

Manzullo is trying to get [Treasury Secretry Timothy] Geithner to give details of the plan — that’s where Geithner got stung before — but Geithner doesn’t have them yet.

If the plan were not radical, Manzullo said to Geithner, “you would have answers to some of my questions, such as, what size business would be subject to this?”

From The Washington Post
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/econom
y-watch/2009/03/geithner_new_rules_o
f_the_game.html?hpid=topnews

***************************

By MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP Economics Writer

Wall Street wizards

have proved adept at designing complex financial products to sidestep existing regulations. And Vincent Reinhart, former director of monetary affairs at the Federal Reserve, says, “You’re going to see firms try to figure out how to be under the radar.”

For example, private equity investors might try to buy large hedge funds and chop them into funds that would be small enough to operate unregulated, Reinhart said.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, unveiling the plan Thursday, said the nation’s economic crisis demands bold action.

“We need much stronger standards for openness, transparency and plain commonsense language throughout the financial system,” he told the House Financial Services Committee.

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., ... 
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., concludes a hearing on President Obama’s proposals for an extensive overhaul of financial regulations with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner there to defend the plan, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 26, 2009. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/200903
27/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/financial_regulation

Related:
Obama’s public overexposure

Obama Still Thinks After Economy Recovers; Bank, Finance Good Times Can Return?

 Obama’s Economic “Rescue;” “The plan is very, very clever. Maybe too clever.”

Obama Still Thinks After Economy Recovers; Bank, Finance Good Times Can Return?

March 27, 2009

On Monday, Lawrence Summers, the head of the National Economic Council, responded to criticisms of the Obama administration’s plan to subsidize private purchases of toxic assets. “I don’t know of any economist,” he declared, “who doesn’t believe that better functioning capital markets in which assets can be traded are a good idea.”

By PAUL KRUGMAN
The New Yok Times

Leave aside for a moment the question of whether a market in which buyers have to be bribed to participate can really be described as “better functioning.” Even so, Mr. Summers needs to get out more. Quite a few economists have reconsidered their favorable opinion of capital markets and asset trading in the light of the current crisis.

But it has become increasingly clear over the past few days that top officials in the Obama administration are still in the grip of the market mystique. They still believe in the magic of the financial marketplace and in the prowess of the wizards who perform that magic.

The market mystique didn’t always rule financial policy. America emerged from the Great Depression with a tightly regulated banking system, which made finance a staid, even boring business. Banks attracted depositors by providing convenient branch locations and maybe a free toaster or two; they used the money thus attracted to make loans, and that was that.

And the financial system wasn’t just boring. It was also, by today’s standards, small. Even during the “go-go years,” the bull market of the 1960s, finance and insurance together accounted for less than 4 percent of G.D.P. The relative unimportance of finance was reflected in the list of stocks making up the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which until 1982 contained not a single financial company.

It all sounds primitive by today’s standards. Yet that boring, primitive financial system serviced an economy that doubled living standards over the course of a generation.

After 1980, of course, a very different financial system emerged. In the deregulation-minded Reagan era, old-fashioned banking was increasingly replaced by wheeling and dealing on a grand scale. The new system was much bigger than the old regime: On the eve of the current crisis, finance and insurance accounted for 8 percent of G.D.P., more than twice their share in the 1960s. By early last year, the Dow contained five financial companies — giants like A.I.G., Citigroup and Bank of America.

And finance became anything but boring. It attracted many of our sharpest minds and made a select few immensely rich.

Underlying the glamorous new world of finance was the process of securitization. Loans no longer stayed with the lender. Instead, they were sold on to others, who sliced, diced and puréed individual debts to synthesize new assets. Subprime mortgages, credit card debts, car loans — all went into the financial system’s juicer. Out the other end, supposedly, came sweet-tasting AAA investments. And financial wizards were lavishly rewarded for overseeing the process.

But the wizards were frauds, whether they knew it or not, and their magic turned out to be no more than a collection of cheap stage tricks. Above all, the key promise of securitization — that it would make the financial system more robust by spreading risk more widely — turned out to be a lie. Banks used securitization to increase their risk, not reduce it, and in the process they made the economy more, not less, vulnerable to financial disruption.

Sooner or later, things were bound to go wrong, and eventually they did. Bear Stearns failed; Lehman failed; but most of all, securitization failed.

Which brings us back to the Obama administration’s approach to the financial crisis.

Much discussion of the toxic-asset plan has focused on the details and the arithmetic, and rightly so. Beyond that, however, what’s striking is the vision expressed both in the content of the financial plan and in statements by administration officials. In essence, the administration seems to believe that once investors calm down, securitization — and the business of finance — can resume where it left off a year or two ago.

To be fair, officials are calling for more regulation. Indeed, on Thursday Tim Geithner, the Treasury secretary, laid out plans for enhanced regulation that would have been considered radical not long ago.

But the underlying vision remains that of a financial system more or less the same as it was two years ago, albeit somewhat tamed by new rules.

As you can guess, I don’t share that vision. I don’t think this is just a financial panic; I believe that it represents the failure of a whole model of banking, of an overgrown financial sector that did more harm than good. I don’t think the Obama administration can bring securitization back to life, and I don’t believe it should try.

Obama Wants To Take Over Companies; Complains Congress Might Take Too Long

March 24, 2009

President Barack Obama says he hopes “it doesn’t take too long” for Congress to approve new authority to oversee financial firms — and even take them over by the Federal Government if they are in economic trouble.

The president made the remark in the Oval office Tuesday afternoon, March 24, 2009.

The administration is pushing the idea of an overarching regulator, such as the Federal Reserve, to have the ability to take over nonbank financial entities whose failure could topple the entire financial system.

Congress has gotten us into trouble recently by rushing through important legislation or hearings.

The congress held no hearing on the president’s stimulus spending measure — with many member saying they didn’t have time to read it.

The stimulus assured AIG that it had the authority to pay bonuses.

Then the House last week rushed to vote a 90% tax on those same bonuses….an idea that could be unconstitutional…. and is certainly questionable….

Most fast legislation is very bad legislation, in our experience….

 Geithner Wants To Seize Troubled Businesses: “By What Authority in the Constitution?”

Obama “Strongly Approve” Number from 42% to 36% in Last 60 Days; Geithner 24% Or Less

See Michelle:
http://michellemalkin.com/2009/03/24/the-sen
ate-shows-a-little-sense-confiscatory-republica
ns-show-no-shame/

Related:
http://www.frugal-cafe.com/public_html/frugal-
blog/frugal-cafe-blogzone/2009/03/21/wait-ha
ste-made-the-mess-sen-kyl-blocks-aig-punish
ment-bill-to-allow-level-headed-review/

US President Barack Obama (R) speaks with Australian Prime Minister ... 
US President Barack Obama (R) speaks with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC. Obama said Tuesday he hoped to partner with Rudd for “years to come” after forging a “meeting of the minds” in their first White House talks.  During this meeting, Obama told reporters, he hopes “it doesn’t take too long” for Congress to approve new authority to oversee financial firms .(AFP/Jim Watson)

Geithner Wants To Seize Troubled Businesses: “By What Authority in the Constitution?”

March 24, 2009

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) asked Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner today to identify where in the constitution one could find authority governing his idea for seizing a trioubled bank to preserve our national economy.

Geithner said, “It’s the law of the land.  We get our authority from Congress.”

Bachmann’s question was meaningful, in fact, central to much of the recent debate in the congress.  By what authority are we doing all this movement toward socialism and central government planning?  Just because we don’t like the economy, doesn’t mean we can st pay standards for executives, tax them at 90% and seize troublesome businesses.

Bachmann said later on the Fox News Channel she fears a “lurch toward socialism.”

Geithner and Bernanke 
Treasury Secretary Geithner (left) and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke at the House Financial Services Committee today (AP)

*****************

By JEANNINE AVERSA, AP Economics Writer

WASHINGTON – Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner asked Congress on Tuesday for broad new powers to regulate nonbank financial companies like troubled insurer American International Group whose collapse could jeopardize the economy.

“AIG highlights broad failures of our financial system,” Geithner told the House Financial Services Committee. “We must ensure that our country never faces this situation again.”

At the same time, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke revealed that he had considered filing suit to keep AIG from paying millions in executive bonuses but that his legal advisers counseled him against it.

Geithner acknowledged that the current climate of anger, including the furor over those retention bonuses, will complicate any effort by the Obama administration to get more bailout money from Congress. “We recognize it will be extraordinarily difficult,” he said.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20
090324/ap_on_bi_ge/bailout_
bernanke_geithner

U.S. Seeks Expanded Power to Seize Firms

March 24, 2009

The Obama administration is considering asking Congress to give the Treasury secretary unprecedented powers to initiate the seizure of non-bank financial companies, such as large insurers, investment firms and hedge funds, whose collapse would damage the broader economy, according to an administration document.

The government at present has the authority to seize only banks.

By Binyamin Appelbaum and David Cho
Washington Post Staff Writers

Giving the Treasury secretary authority over a broader range of companies would mark a significant shift from the existing model of financial regulation, which relies on independent agencies that are shielded from the political process. The Treasury secretary, a member of the president’s Cabinet, would exercise the new powers in consultation with the White House, the Federal Reserve and other regulators, according to the document.

The administration plans to send legislation to Capitol Hill this week. Sources cautioned that the details, including the Treasury’s role, are still in flux.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dy
n/content/article/2009/03/23/AR200
9032302830_pf.html

On economic matters, Obama lacks a secretary of Selling It

March 24, 2009
Geithner & Co. may know policy, but they’ve proven less than adept at inspiring the public to accept tough medicine. Their most effective point man is in danger of being overused, one analyst says.
By Peter Nicholas and Peter Wallsten
The Los Angeles Times
March 24, 2009
Reporting from Washington — The first time Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner was sent out as point man to sell the Obama administration’s financial rescue plan, the Dow Jones industrial average plunged 382 points. And Geithner’s subsequent efforts as a center-stage spokesman were less than resounding successes.

On Monday, the administration took a different approach. Geithner largely confined himself to conducting a pen-and-pad-only news conference that excluded TV and effectively reduced the secretary from point man to staff briefer. The Dow soared nearly 500 points.

Read the rest:
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationwo
rld/nation/la-na-obama-econ24-2009m
ar24,0,2138669.story

*****************

In a Congressional hearing today, Bernanke and Geithner are likely to once again call on Congress to enact legislation that would allow the government to safely dismantle a big financial institution, like American International Group Inc., to minimize any damage to the U.S financial system and the broader economy.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/2009032
4/ap_on_bi_ge/bailout_bernanke_geithner