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Reply #54: America’s Own Kleptocracy [View All]

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Octafish Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-23-08 04:26 PM
Response to Reply #14
54. America’s Own Kleptocracy
Here's a bit of analysis for the pyre:



The Market and the Terminator Machines

America’s Own Kleptocracy


By MICHAEL HUDSON
CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
September 20 / 21, 2008

Nobody expected industrial capitalism to end up like this. Nobody even saw it evolving in this direction. I’m afraid this failing is not unusual among futurists: The natural tendency is to think about how economies can best grow and evolve, not how it can be untracked. But an unforeseen road always seems to appear, and there goes society goes off on a tangent.

What a two weeks! On Sunday, September 7, the Treasury took on the $5.3 trillion mortgage exposure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose heads already had been removed for accounting fraud. On Monday, September 15, Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, when prospective Wall Street buyers couldn’t gain any sense of reality from its financial books. On Wednesday the Federal Reserve agreed to make good for at least $85 billion in the just-pretend “insured” winnings owed to financial gamblers who bet on computer-driven trades in junk mortgages and bought counter-party coverage from the A.I.G. (the American International Group, whose head Maurice Greenberg already had been removed a few years back for accounting fraud). But it is Friday, September 19, that will go down as a turning point in American history. The White House committed at least half a trillion dollars more to re-inflate real estate prices in an attempt to support the market value junk mortgages – mortgages issued far beyond the ability of debtors to pay and far above the going market price of the collateral being pledged.

These billions of dollars were devoted to keeping a dream alive – the accounting fictions written down by companies that had entered an unreal world based on false accounting that nearly everyone in the financial sector knew to be fake. But they played along with buying and selling packaged mortgage junk because that was where the money was. Even after markets collapse, fund managers who steered clear were blamed for not playing the game while it was going. I have friends on Wall Street who were fired for not matching the returns that their compatriots were making. And the biggest returns were to be made in trading in the economy’s largest financial asset – mortgage debt. The mortgages packaged, owned or guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie alone exceeded the entire U.S. national debt – the cumulative deficits run up by the American Government since the nation won the Revolutionary War!

This gives an idea of just how large the bailout has been – and where the government’s (or at least the Republicans’) priorities lie! Instead of waking up the economy to reality, the government has thrown all its resources to promote the unreal dream that debts can be paid – if not by the debtors themselves, then by the government – “taxpayers,” as the euphemism goes.

Overnight, the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve have radically changed the character of American capitalism. It is nothing less than a coup d’êtat for the class that FDR called “banksters.” What has happened in the past two weeks threatens to change the coming century – irreversibly, if they can get away with it. This is the largest and most inequitable transfer of wealth since the land giveaways to the railroad barons during the Civil War era.

Even so, there seems little sign that it even may end the free-market patter talk by financial insiders who have managed to avert public oversight by appointing non-regulators to the major regulatory agencies – and thus created the mess that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson now says threatens the bank deposits and jobs of all Americans. What he really means, of course, are simply the largest Republican campaign contributors (and to be fair, also the largest contributors to Democratic candidates on key financial committees).

A kleptocratic class has taken over the economy to replace industrial capitalism. Franklin Roosevelt’s term “banksters” says it all in a nutshell. The economy has been captured – by an alien power, but not the usual suspects. Not socialism, workers or “big government,” nor by industrial monopolists or even by the great banking families. Certainly not by Freemasons and Illuminati. (It would be wonderful if there were indeed some group operating with centuries of wisdom behind them, so at least someone had a plan.) Rather, the banksters have made a compact with an alien power –not Communists, Russians, Asians or Arabs. Not humans at all. The group’s cadre is a new breed of machine. It may sound like the Terminator movies, but computerized Machines have indeed taken over the world – at least, the White House’s world.

Here is how they did it. A.I.G. wrote insurance policies of all sorts of that people and businesses need: home and property insurance, livestock insurance, even aircraft leasing. These highly profitable businesses were not the problem. (They therefore will probably be sold off to pay the company’s bad gambles.) A.I.G.’s downfall came from the $450 billion – almost half a trillion – dollars it was on the hook for as a result of guaranteeing hedge-fund counterparty insurance. In other words, if two parties played the zero-sum game of betting against each other as to whether the dollar would rise or fall against sterling or the euro, or if they insured a mortgage portfolio of junk mortgages to make sure that they would get paid, they would pay a teeny tiny commission to A.I.G. for a policy promising to pay if, say, the $11 trillion U.S. mortgage market should “stumble” or if losers placing trillions of dollars in bets on foreign exchange derivatives, stock or bond derivatives should somehow find themselves in a position that so many Las Vegas patrons are in, and be unable to come up with the cash to cover their losses.

A.I.G. collected billions of dollars on such policies. And thanks to the fact that insurance companies are a Milton Friedman paradise – not regulated by the Federal Reserve or any other nation-wide agency, and hence able to get the proverbial free lunch without government oversight – writing such policies was done by computer printouts, and the company collected massive fees and commissions without putting in much capital of its own. This is what is called “self-regulation.” It is how the Invisible Hand is supposed to work.

http://www.counterpunch.org/hudson09202008.html



You are welcome, my Friend! And thank you! Same goes for you, G_j!
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