Monday, October 06, 2008

The Ben Franklin Report: The Bailout Settles In

Just in case you need a reference point to how much the bailout was, consider the number to the right, the cost of the War in Iraq thus far. Yes, the bailout that was passed last week surpasses the amount of money spent on that mistake by leaps and bounds. So, when history is written, how should this period be judged? Where were our priorities? Did we ensure that every child in America had access to primary health care? Were we more concerned about finding a cure for cancer, or spending money on making sure that phone calls and emails didn't contain terrorist-related content?

The bailout and its effects in the market place, in a nut shell. Apparently, today the chaos continues as the first market to open after Bush's signature, the Israeli Tel Aviv Stock Exchange tumbled like a rock going down a sheer slope. 

The fundamental source of the entire financial crisis has been the opaque nature of the books of the biggest financial institutions. The fact that they refused to value assets which, if shown in the light of day, would be revealed to have little revenue potential, will probably end up costing the companies billions in dollars is only being papered over by the bill that the various branches of the federal government approved on Friday. This is further reinforced by new rules from the Securities and Exchange Commission stating that corporations no longer have to price these assets on a 'mark-to-market' basis. That is to say, they no longer have to value them at the price they would likely fetch in a free and open market, but rather can just pencil in whatever they want and use these assets as capital, or as collateral for the various short-term lending programs offered by the Federal Reserve. However, the hanging $55 trillion question in the air is what happens when the Credit Default Swaps start becoming unbundled. For instance, you may remember A.I.G. which met its fate and an $85 billion bailout from the Federal Treasury because of these insurance policies, but has yet to sell a single asset, despite blowing through $61 billion of the money provided in the bailout. Yet their executives party like Nero in Rome. Party on, Wayne. Why worry when none of those responsible for the lending practices will ever be prosecuted

So, with some banks saying that they won't even participate in the No Bank Left Behind program and banks that will still fail regardless of their participation, what are we left with? A budget problem that will hamstring the domestic and foreign policies of the next President, whoever it may be, an IRS with undercover investigative powers which will be on the prowl to make sure that every dollar Uncle Sam has coming is brought to the Treasury, and good, old-fashioned rage almost everywhere other than Wall Street. 

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