Saturday, May 5, 2012

The stronger banks

The bailout fiasco is just now starting to show up for the act of desperation that many suspected it was. Instead of allowing markets to resolve a severely over-leveraged and distorted economy, the government decided to try to “bluff” its way through one more time. This strategy has been one used for almost 5 decades. Each time the credit stimulus required is bigger than the last. Each time the distortions to relative prices is made worse. Each time the misallocation of resources becomes greater. Each time the credit levels of individuals and government expand. Each time inflation becomes a bigger problem. Finally, a time comes when malinvestment and credit burdens are too large to be supported. It is probable that we have reached that point. To appreciate how far we have come regarding the abuses of credit creation, one need only note that since the Federal Reserve was created in 1913, the dollar has lost about 96% of its purchasing power. Most of that loss (probably in excess of 90%) has occurred since 1980.
There are still many that believe that government actions will get us out of our predicament. They
won’t. When we come out of this mess, it will be in spite of these actions. They will serve to make the problem worse and cause it to last much longer. Japan has been employing similar stimuli for two decades, and its economy has still has not recovered.
As time passes, it will become apparent to all but the dullards that these interventions were non-helpful and actually harmful. Most understand economics only experientially. Events as discussed in the following post by Rolfe Winkler today are what will continue to surface with the passage of time and provide enough instances for the experiential learners.
Besides being a terrible decision that will cost taxpayers dearly, the article also talks about the unintended consequences of drawing deposits away from smaller, solid banks to the weaker GMAC. The unintended consequence is to weaken the stronger banks.
The government has already poured $12.5 billion into GMAC since last December, and now the company is negotiating for $2.8-$5.6 billion more. Oh, and FDIC will allow the company to max out its borrowing capacity under TLGP, bringing the total there to $7.4 billion.
Yet another argument against those who say we “made money” on TARP because Goldman, AmEx and a few others bought back their warrants at a small premium. All the profits from those warrants wouldn’t add up to the amount we’ve already poured into GMAC, never mind this latest infusion. There’s also the small matter of $100 billion+ we’re never getting back from AIG….
Readers may recall that FDIC was rather peeved at GMAC for previously offering high rates on deposits. This is the ultimate moral hazard of deposit insurance. Depositors aren’t willing to impose discipline on the bank — taking their money out — because they know it’s guaranteed. GMAC knew this and, through its subsidiary GMAC Ally Bank, offered the highest deposit rates in the nation for a time.
In order to sell more government backed debt under TLGP program, FDIC struck a deal by which GMAC will “keep its [deposit] rates at certain amounts,” according to WSJ.
One would think a change of management might be in order. Well, it’s not gonna happen. CEO Alvaro de Molina — formerly CFO at Bank of America — will stay on.
The real reason behind this bailout is GM. In an age when cars are still purchased on credit, someone has to front the money if automakers are going to move inventory. For GM, that means GMAC, which in turn means taxpayers.
Taxpayers are lending themselves money to buy cars (via GMAC). To buy houses (via Fannie, Freddie and very soon FHA). To buy anything and everything that has to be financed.
My question: When are we actually going to pay for any of it? Also: When we realize we can’t, what’s going to happen to the economy?

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