Wednesday, March 11, 2009

It is so Hard to Stay on Message

Lots of rain today which washed away most of the last snowfall. There is something about being able to actually SEE the ground after a long winter that makes me think of spring. And fishing. And outside grilling.

Truer Words Have Never Been Spoken
I like to point out times when politicians, bankers, and talking heads slip up and say what they actually mean. It does not happen often, but when it does it is usually quite revealing.

Today's quip comes from interim assistant secretary for financial stability at Treasury (IASFST??) Neel Kashkari who was up on capital hill talking all things financial.
From Yahoo Finance today:
Within weeks, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner plans to unveil a new public-private investment fund that will be used to purchase illiquid assets, such as toxic mortgage related securities at the heart of the financial crisis. Kashkari said the private sector has voiced interest in the program and said he expects pension funds and mutual funds that hold retirement savings to be among the major investors.

"My assumption is that most of the capital will come from the savings of the American people," he said.

Let one slip didn't you Neel?

The public-private plan is nothing more than the government offering guarantees on losses to bait return-hungry speculators into buying the worst of the debt instruments that are killing the banks. Details are still far from clear, but it seems Mr. Kashkari already has a solid lead on the targets. I am sure that pensions that have based their funding on magical 8% a year returns will be very aggressive in buying this junk thinking the government guarantees make them a sure winner. I would caution waiting for the details, reading the fine print, and giving a thought as to why nobody wants this stuff at any price.

Not to fear, Mr. Kashkari was back telling lies a few lines down in the article:
Kashkari said he didn't expect the private sector investment to get any advantage over the government's investment. "If the private sector wins, the taxpayer wins," he said. "If the taxpayer loses, the private sector loses."

He meant "If the private sector wins, the taxpayer pays for it, When the taxpayer loses, the private sector loses a bit less."

Printing Money to Buy Bonds-Coming to America
In a process that makes sense only on paper in a classroom full of Keynesian clowns, the Bank of England embarked on a new trip towards currency devaluation today:
Bank of England Buys Government Bonds, Opening New Policy Front
March 11 (Bloomberg) -- The Bank of England opened a new front in its effort to ward off deflation today as it bought government bonds with newly created money.
The central bank today purchased 2 billion pounds ($2.8 billion) of gilts, its first deployment in a three-month plan that may see it spend 75 billion pounds. Investors offered more than five times as much as the bank said it would buy. “For the economy, this is money that can now be spent elsewhere,” said George Buckley, chief U.K. economist at Deutsche Bank AG in London. “The risk is that it’s not used to lend but is kept in reserves. We don’t know what this is going to do because we don’t know where the money goes.”

I am aware of the logic (however tenuous) and the financial tomfoolery that makes this move make sense to some. It just seems pure comedy for me for a government to PRINT money to buy ITS OWN DEBT and have that pure fact ignored and perceived as just another investor buying bonds on the open market. It must work because the pound didn't budge today.

I do not know about you but when people want to sell me 5 times as much of anything I am looking to buy, I become suspicious! Those Brits are a trusting sort.

This bears watching as the same process is coming to America very soon.

It is so Hard to Stay on Message
One of the key aspects of making policy work is that all the players involved have subscribed to said policy and that all involved stay on message regarding said policy. A unified front can inspire confidence and make people think the powers that be might actually have an idea as to what they are doing. Of course the challenge is keeping everything together.

What we have been told is that:
-This is The Great Depression 2.0, or at least a low budget sequel
-The Banks are facing "systemic risk" and need help or we will all be dead
-Taxpayer money must be used to get credit flowing or else we all will die
-Nationalization of banking is Un-American, it would make us all die
-Unlimited funds must be provided to insurers and banks or we die

That about sums it up. Pretty dark and scary. This should be a message that is easy to adhere to, there is not much to it.

Yet in the past 2 days we have been told by big bankers:
-Citi CEO Pandit says they are making more money than at the height of the credit bubble, at least the last 2 months anyway
-JP Morgan chief Dimon says JPM did not want TARP money, does not need TARP money and JPM too made big bucks in the winter months

Now we could savage Citi by asking if they would be in such great shape if they revealed losses for those two months or if they had not been bailed out 2 times already with taxpayer cash. We could ask JPM if, seeing all is so well, they would give up the Bear Stearns 30 Billion backstop. I mean, they do not need it, right?

We could do that, but instead focus on the total lack of coordination going on here. With "Tea Party" rallies across the country, polls running 70% against helping out bankers with bailouts, and sentiment running high against paying other deadbeat peoples mortgages one might think that bank CEO's would keep their mouths shut, mumble humble thank yous, and speak of better days to come thanks to the help of their fellow citizens. No such luck.

I would suggest the government get a leash on these guys and soon. I am sure that the bank CEO's of Wells Fargo and Bank of America are chomping at the bit to tell the world how great January and February went for them as well. If these guys keep telling us that they are all set and never wanted any help to begin with, the less well read of us might just take them at their word and really get angry that money is being given to those that do not even want it!

Like I said, it is hard to stay on message. Especially if the players involved are all full of it.

Have a good night.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

GYSC

The message is pretty clear. The banks were saved but the people were destroyed.

A U.S. government plan for
a public-private investment fund to buy distressed assets to
help clean up banks' balance sheets is likely to generate a
"healthy" profit" for taxpayers and investors, the head of the
Federal Deposit Insurance Corp said on Wednesday. "We think that that is absolutely true that the assets are
worth more than the current market conditions assigned to them
and so that yes, over time, there will be significant profits
from these," FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said in an interview
with American Public Media's "Marketplace" radio program.
http://www.reuters.com/article/rbssFinancialServicesAndRealEstateNews/idUSN1132234320090311

If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed."
~ Adolf Hitler

Sorry Adolf I ain't buyint it.

Kevin

Lisa said...

"or we all die" I probably wasn't supposed to, but I laughed 'til I cried reading that part. It's all so preposterous.
Everyone seems to be looking for a great rally all through the summer. They may find it at the White House steps, but not in the stock market.
GYSC, you're the best! I've recommended your site to some other bloggers, recommending they add you to their link sections. I hope they do.
I kept thinking today was Friday, but you don't have a Rock blog, so, alas, I guess it isn't.

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