Friday, January 28, 2011

The Permanent Bailout

Milton Friedman once said that "Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program." The central banks, as rogue private bodies exercising governmental powers a proving that axiom true yet again. The Federal Reserve claimed yesterday that we are in a recovery but none of their emergency programs can be rolled back.

... the Committee decided today to continue expanding its holdings of securities as announced in November. In particular, the Committee is maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its securities holdings and intends to purchase $600 billion of longer-term Treasury securities by the end of the second quarter of 2011.

Meanwhile, over in Europe, there is growing recognition that the bailouts have failed and that the money isn't going to be paid back. Instead of actually admitting anything of the sort, the ECB is now talking about effectively making the loans permanent. Sure, they SAY it's going to be a 30 year loan instead of 3 years but if Ireland and Greece can't pay the money back now and continue to run deficits, what makes anyone think they'll be in a better position to pay it back later?

The question sort of answers itself. The bailouts are throwing good money after bad as every one of these banks is so far underwater they can't even see the surface from here. Without honest accounting, we have no idea just how deep that hole is but it certainly looks like a bottomless pit from here. It's been stunningly clear for a while now that so much bad debt needed to be purged from the system but the central and TBTF banks have made every effort to PREVENT such a purge.

(Wall) Street Corner Hustle
The latest brainstorm from the ECB is exactly the same sort of shell game. Greece and Ireland can't pay the money back and they know it. Instead of acknowledging reality, we'll just convert it into a long-term "loan" so they don't have to pay it back within the term and maybe even the lifetime of the people making the decisions. It can't be paid back and it won't be paid back but maybe they can keep up the lies for a little while longer.

This is simply more Extend and Pretend so that they can keep trying to fool people into impoverishing themselves by overspending and taking on too much debt to keep up the illusion. That is the meaning of "prosperity" in a keynesian ponzi economy. You use inflation to convince people to eat their seed corn, making them feel better - for a little while. This is why central bankers place so much emphasis on "confidence" - in practical terms that measures the willingness of the population to deplete their capital and eat their seed corn due to the inflationary deception of the central banks.

The UDB gave us the biggest illusion of false prosperity the world has ever seen. The bankers are now trying to cover their tracks and delay the inevitable hoping you'll forget their complicity. But the best simple summation can be found from the creators of South Park:

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Law

Here at Financial Jenga we have hoped, even prayed for the law to be enforced for the last couple of years. Yet the fraud has raged unchecked and if anything grown worse. Banks have mass filed false affidavits to fraudulently seize houses through the foreclosure process and then said "oopps, we made a technical paperwork error" when caught. At first they got away with it. They HAVE seized houses through this procedure when there was no mortgage and no lien at all.

The Fed has gone and done things far beyond the scope of authority given to it by Congress - like using our money to prop up the investment banks and the stock fraud they are running. They are given the power to buy exactly two thing - bonds carrying the full guarantee of the US government and short-term loans for planting of crops. Buying junk bonds containing mortgages violates both the letter and the spirit of their charter. Buying stocks is so far beyond their legal powers that someone should be in prison and probably a lot of someones.

No one has shown much sign of really stopping the Fed yet but the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court landed a major blow for the law today by confirming a lower court ruling that nullified two foreclosures because they plaintiffs couldn't show they owned the property. In both cases, "robosigned" affidavits were introduced as proof of ownership and later shown to be without merit.

The state Supreme Judicial Court today upheld a judge’s decision saying two foreclosures were invalid because the banks didn’t prove they owned the mortgages, which he said were improperly transferred into two mortgage-backed trusts. As reported by

“We agree with the judge that the plaintiffs, who were not the original mortgagees, failed to make the required showing that they were the holders of the mortgages at the time of foreclosure,” Justice Ralph D. Gants wrote.

While there have been many similar rulings across the country, this is the first such decision by a state supreme court. And since property law is still properly the jurisdiction of the states, this decision is final as far as Massachusetts is concerned. Hopefully they will follow up with prosecutions for the mass of fraud represented by those false affidavits.

And this entire financial crisis is bound up with a struggle to centralize political power in Washington. One of the key enablers of the late-bubble madness was the effective nullification of state lending regulations. This was done in 2004 when the Office of Comptroller of the Currency used
federal preemption to overrule state laws against predatory lending. It was one of the worst moments of the Bush Administration:

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency Feb. 21 published for comment a ruling that Georgia's predatory lending law, the Georgia Fair Lending Act (GFLA), is preempted for national banks.

At the same time, it issued two advisory letters to national banks to clarify its expectations for banks to avoid involvement with "predatory" lending practices.

So basically, the OCC's action wiped out state legal protections against predatory lending. And they substituted a finger wagging "don't do it" with a nudge and a wink to just go ahead. And of course the very worst mortgage paper was written over the next three years after the change. We have documented the results of those no-doc, alt-A and option ARM loans here from the very beginning. But those abusive mortgages would not have been possible without Washington stepping in to remove the legal shield that states provided their citizens.