Thursday, September 25, 2008

US financial crisis explained, and likened to some "affirmative action" type activities in Australia

I received the following email from a friend.

I don't know if you have been following the US financial mess but finally, yes finally here is a story that seems to get to the heart of the matter.

And you link to Rachel Lucas on your blog which is where I found the article. A broad summary -- the US financial mess has resulted from government intervention years ago in the free market to prevent financial institutions from exercising financial prudence all in the name of some type of moral equivalence, i.e., it is wrong that people from lower socio-economic backgrounds have lower access rates to borrowings - translate to Lending Institutions must be able to show that lending to all racial groups is balanced and has nothing to do with their race (how they would know the race of a borrower is an interesting question.... hmm). Result - a disaster of gigantic proportions. We've seen the same sort of thing here when various sociologists decry the different incarceration rates between aboriginal (sorry indigenous) people and white people as though these things should necessarily be the same.

The problem is that all these crappy loans were re-packaged as various financial products and on sold through the financial system effectively infecting it. The process is much the same practice as used by Insurance companies who mitigate their risk by packaging and on selling their risk across the industry world wide, so that all are exposed to major disasters rather than one firm bearing the brunt of claims for a particular incident to which it had direct exposure.

I don't know what the answer to the US mess is. For example some commentators are saying that the free market should reign (e.g., Michelle Malkin). I suppose Rachel Lucas would say it would be Congress attempting to fix a problem of its own making. And governments do not have a good track record at that sort of thing and with the amount of money that is being touted for the bailout (US$700 billion!) just think of the opportunities for fraud, rip off and so on. Some people could become very very wealthy at taxpayers expense and probably no one would necessarily be any the wiser.

It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.
1. and people rubbish those Aussies following the US election.
2. this will affect Australian finances, along with the leaping/diving price of fuel, the slowing down of the resources boom and a few other things happening in the economic sector, Australia will be affected.


Wand said...

This thing is really interesting. Who would like to be a US taxpayer bailing out all and sundry?

Wait, from this morning’s Australian, NAB in line for $1bn US cash. [ Now isn't that nice!]

And, “A spokesman for NAB said there was not yet enough detail about the $US700 billion package to comment. However, it is expected that the rescue will be open to non-US institutions.

"We'll take advantage of any opportunities there are, but we couldn't give any guidance to anyone about it at the moment," he said. [ Go NAB!]

The NAB wrote off $1 billion in securities called collateralised debt obligations, which had exposure to US housing markets, in July.“

Ah yes I can see it now, all and sundry with their hands out.

But wait there will be more. NAB wrote off $1 billion in July. Now it will have to write on $1 billion and my guess it that the ATO will be waiting in the wings. Windfall profits no less - so how much ends up in the Australian government’s pocket?

And that’s just one example. The $700 billion will move in some mightily mysterious ways before this thing is over. Now where can I submit my application form or put out my hand?

Skeeter said...

Whatever the US congress decides to do, there will be winners and losers.
I'm no economist, but I suspect there will be more losers if the bail-out is not attempted.
Most people alive today have no experience of a global depression. The Boomers may be able to cope but later generations are ill-equipped for survival without government assistance.
Can you imagine our young friends setting out down dusty country roads and calling on farms for odd-jobs and food handouts?

Skeeter said...

sundowner, noun
2. Australian. a tramp or hobo, esp. one who arrives at a homestead near sundown in order to avoid having to work in exchange for shelter.

Wand said...


As I see it, the main problem with any bailout is just how to carry it out. Sure the banks and lending institutions (those that are left anyway) have a heap of almost worthless script. From what I have seen, the loans packed up into various types of mortgage securities have lost about 90% of their face value! If the government buys that script or some of it at its face value then the institutions are left with the money but it is then questionable if it is enough for them to remain solvent.

No one knows because of the size of the whole thing.

So does the government pay more than the face value for the paper securities because the lending institutions may need more? If so, on what basis should the price be determined and then what happens to the money, e.g., what would be to stop a financial institution taking the money and closing its doors anyway? There would be all sorts of hypothetical scenarios on how it could all play out... all with taxpayers money. It’s no wonder that the US Congress cannot agree on a rescue plan.

Of course if an individual had a lot of money he could buy up lots of the mortgage securities at their current value, wait five years or however long it takes for the market to recover and then make a lot of money selling them back into the market. Some members of Congress are saying just this.

Another thing. The investment of $4 billion into the mortgage market here vindicates Malcolm Turnbull’s comments on Q&A on Thursday night that the non- bank lending market in Australia had shrunk as a result of the US financial market and that overall there was less competition.

This whole debacle has been ten years in the making and it will take some time to be resolved.

kc said...

Seems to me (and my memory is often spotty, at best) the push was on to give mortgages to people simply because their race/ethnicity/gender was not a large enough slice of the homeownership pie to be FAIR, maybe 15 years ago. Gotta LEVEL the playing field & CHANGE the rules. In other words, Congress REGULATED that people who couldn't afford them HAD to be given mortgages simply because it was racist/bigoted/sexist to deny them the RIGHT to own a home. This ended up buying LOTS of votes for certain Congresspersons - many of whom are now in charge of attempting to fix the problem they've created. Sheesh. Hens, meet foxes...

Wand said...


Spot on!