Sunday, September 25, 2011

Shooting Banksters In A Barrel

Daniel Davies (d-squared) tries to defend bankers against the accusation that they're responsible for the 2008 crash and continuing world economic crisis.

He doesn't do a particularly good job, but he elicits this great response from "Bloix" :

I’m sure I’m being naive in assuming that Daniel doesn’t already know this and is intentionally ignoring it, but here goes:

1) There was a bubble in housing prices. This means that people bought houses, not to live in, but because they believed that the house they bought would appreciate faster than any other asset they could invest in. The appeal of such appreciation was multiplied many-fold because houses are the easiest and most common investment for ordinary people that supplies large amounts of leverage. The ordinary buyer had no appreciation of the risks of leverage but well-understood its benefits. There was a lot of activity in buying up, flipping, and trading houses that had nothing to do with the need for shelter. This activity made a lot of money for a lot of people – real estate agents, mortgage brokers, inspectors, title insurers, and lenders.

2) Housing prices could not indefinitely go up faster than the rate of inflation because eventually there would not be enough buyers who had the income to qualify for the mortgages needed to on the higher home prices. Therefore, in the absence of “creative” financing, the run-up in housing prices would soon have stabilized and perhaps dropped a bit.

3) Mortgage brokers and lenders therefore created mortgage products that were designed to allow people to buy houses that they could not possibly pay for based on their income – balloon mortgages, teaser rates, interest only loans, even negative amortization.

4) If the mortgage lenders had had to hold the risk of these loans, they would never have made them. But they didn’t, because they could sell the loans to the banksters, who then packaged them in their creative products and sold them off as AAA-rated securities to insurers, pension funds, and the like. After the banksters took their large cut off the top, the money from these investors funded the loans to the ignorant buyers who were put into the creative mortgage products by the petty crooks who worked for the mortgage originators.

5) Without the market in mortgage-backed securities made by the banksters, there would have been no money to fund the creative mortgage products, and thus no possibility of a bubble anywhere near the size of the one that eventually burst. The whole point of the mortage-backed securities market was to keep the bubble inflated. Obviously it couldn’t go on for ever, but it was very, very profitable while it lasted.

6) The banksters either were world-class idiots or they were well-aware that the mortgage-backed securities they were selling to clueless institutional buyers were trash. As we know that they are not idiots, the only possible conclusion is that they were intentionally passing off trash.

People who peddle fake goods are usually considered to be crooks. But banksters who knowingly peddled enormously high-risk securities, while claiming that they were as safe as US treasuries, are walking around with billions of taxpayer dollars in their pockets. They own Congress and the administration. They write the tax code and dominate the Federal Reserve.

After smashing up our retirement accounts, destroying our pension funds, wiping out the savings of millions of people who bought into the rising market, and putting any number of us out of work, they sneer and pontificate and preen and strut their way across the major cities and TV screens and high-end resorts of all the world.

The only justification for the investment banking industry’s existence is that it does a better job of allocating investment capital for productive purposes than any other method of doing so. What we’ve just seen is that, far from allocating capital efficiently, the banksters allocated capital in a grotesquely wasteful manner for year and year, a manner that just happened to put huge amounts of that capital into their own individual pockets while leaving the institutions they worked for at risk of insolvency. And when that risk came to pass, the obscenely rich individuals suffered not at all, while the government bailed out the institutions.

So. Please. I don’t know anything about you personally, and I’m sure that you’re a wonderful fellow who loves dogs and is charming at parties. But the industry you are part of is a force for evil in the world. Everyone who is not dependent on that industry for a living knows it.

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