By Stephen Handwerk
Sunday night I tuned into 60 Minutes, as usual and boy was this a learning experience. Most do not understand the "Bail Out" - and I fancy myself someone who stays up on these sorts of things – but even this has me scratching my head. It turns out that is what they wanted.
Many have said that this crisis was caused by people who purchased homes they could not afford – however this expose clearly shows that not only is this false but if it were the only issue the country would be just fine right now (as would most of the financial institutes). It was the Mortgages these banks were selling and developing and then finally released to the Public. You see, Mathematicians and Physicists were working for Wall Street with the purpose to write these “vehicles” for all of these folks to first peddle and then to profit from – this was shocking.
“Credit Default Swaps” have turned out to be the biggest problem in this crisis. This has multiplied the losses of these large banks. See these banks were trying to sell these risky packaged loans – they were having problems. So their solution – “Credit Default Swaps”. Basically this is an insurance contract for the investor – if the “product” fails – they will get all their money back. That is right – NO RISK at all for these folks. The issue – this was NOT insurance and because it wasn’t insurance and wasn’t regulated. You see if it was the person offering the insurance would have been required to keep adequate financial reserves to cover any losses. They were selling crap investments with even crappier insurance.
Take a look at the full story by 60 Minutes (in two parts)
Very clearly they articulate that this would NOT have been a huge issue for the nation if it were only the 5-6% of the homeowners that were “out of their depth” and over their heads. The system could have handled that. It was this exotic financial games that these bankers were playing.
Yesterday on Capitol Hill we had the first of the hearings to find out what has happened. Taking the HOT SEAT yesterday was the head of Lehman Brothers - a man that has become RICH off this sceme perpetuated on the American People and who has been compentated almost a HALF BILLION DOLLARS in just the past 6 years. Lehman used to be a huge and respected institution that held a large majority of even the government’s debt. Yet they fell for these “Ponzi schemes” hook, line and sinker.
Many folks have fallen into the trap of blaming this on the Community Reinvestment Act or Fannie and Freddie. This report completely shoots holes all through that argument. Clearly the default rate, while higher today than 4 years ago, it is clearly within the tolerance levels of the normal system. The issue here is the selling and re-selling then insuring against any risk that has now gutted some of the largest financial institutions in the world’s history.
Make NO mistake here – we are bailing out these huge banks and the people who were involved in these risky investments. And there seems as if there will be no “judgment day” for these folks who perpetuated this crime on our country. Why? Even though the regulators and the SEC knew what was happening – nothing these folks were doing was illegal or in violation of any SEC rules. The FBI is reported to be looking over these cases to find if there was wrongdoing and if so they will hold them to account- A bit too little, much too late.
Now fast forward to MONDAY – 3 days after the Congress passed this “bail out” and we see the markets tanking – yesterday we saw an 800 point loss – only to see the market rally and close down only shy of a 400 point drop. This “back stop” that we – the American People, and our representatives in Washington – we scared into supporting appears to have had little effect. One thing is for sure – our children and grandchildren will be paying for this for years to come.Regulation for regulation sake is bad… regulation to protect the American People and our collective checkbook is good – and ultimately that is what we are talking about here.
Tonight we have the second Presidential Debate between McCain and Obama. It should be an interesting night. Reports are signifying that McCain is desperate and that he is “taking off the gloves” but frankly his campaign has been all over the place and making little or no sense. They remind me of my dog chasing her tail. I hope we have a substantive night tonight, and I hope that you will join us in the Daily Advertiser CHAT ROOM as we watch the Debate LIVE.