Posts filed under “Taxes and Policy”

Crude Oil = $130

I guess the markets are not enamored with the Paulson plan.

The dollar has dropped the most versus the Euro since its inception, according to Bloomberg. And ddue to the collapse of the greenback, Briefing is reporting that COMDX Crude oil trades to new 2-month high of $130 per barrel.

Crude Oil, October Futures (delayed 20 minutes)


chart via Barcharts

Category: Commodities, Currency, Energy, Taxes and Policy

Fixing Housing & Finance: 30/20/10 Proposal

A Modest Proposal:  The housing crisis worsened over the summer of 2008, prompting Congress to debate various bailout proposals. But the housing market worsened, raising the default rate on mortgages. The entire inverted pyramid of derivatives built on top of the mortgage market further worsened, adding yet more pressure to the credit crisis. The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the nationalization of AIG were the results.

The response to this financial crisis from the Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson borders on Insanity: An outrageous trillion dollar plus bailout, with the potential for unlimited expenditures at the behest of the Treasury Secretary. It is a terribly expensive plan, one that prevents judicial or administrative or budgetary review. It is fraught with moral hazard, rewarding bad judgment and excessive risk taking. It punishes the prudent and rewards the profligate.It focuses on all the wrong issues.

Worst of all, it is unlikely to work.

Most of the current solutions under discussion amount to throwing obscene amounts of money at the problem, rather than recognizing what the key issues are.

These approaches have several fundamental problems. The goals are less than desirable: 1) they attempt to keep people in homes they cannot afford; 2) The Paulson plan takes bad loans off of the books of poor lenders, and dumps them onto taxpayers; 3) They maintain price supports for homes that remain significantly over-priced. 

At the heart of the $700 billion dollar unlimited finance Paulson bailout is the desire to move weak performing or poorly made loans off of the books of the lenders who made them and onto the taxpayers back (likely via the FHA). To understand the folly of the this housing bailout, one must grasp the magnitude of the prior housing boom, as well as the historical norms that exists in the American housing market.

The current proposal moves bad mortgages from the irresponsible lenders to the innocent. It punishes every taxpayer who was prudent, and every homeowner that behaved in a responsible manner. It eliminates the sanctity of contracts, and allows judges to “cram down” mortgages.   

These may be desperate times, but they do not call for ill thought out, desperate measures. Rather than merely criticize the $700 billion dollar unlimited finance Paulson plan, I would instead like to propose an alternative approach, one that costs much, much less, and is more likely to be effective: The 30/20/10 Proposal.



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Category: Bailouts, Real Estate, Taxes and Policy

Bailout Plan Threat to Dollar ?

Category: Bailouts, Currency, Taxes and Policy

Short Selling Ban Spreads Around the World

Category: Legal, Markets, Short Selling, Taxes and Policy

Government Isn’t the Solution . . .

Tom Toles via the Washington Post

Category: Psychology, Taxes and Policy

Krugman: “We Are Socializing American Finance”

Paul Krugman, an economics professor at Princeton University, talks about the U.S. government’s move to cleanse banks of troubled assets and halt an exodus of investors from money markets and the outlook for the U.S. financial-services industry and economy

click for video

00:00 "Socialization" of U.S. financial system
01:51 Bailout’s justification; "inevitable" rescue
04:13 The outlook for U.S. banks is "not clear."
05:02 "Weakening" economy into next year
Running time 05:57

Krugman Sees `Socialization’ of U.S. Financial System: Video
Bloomberg, September 19, 2008 17:53 EDT

Category: Bailouts, Taxes and Policy, Video

The “New” New Deal

Category: Bailouts, Psychology, Taxes and Policy

SEC: Ban All Short Selling


Here is tonite’s theater of the absurd SEC headline: 

SEC intends to temporarily ban short selling, but it’s not clear if the commission has approved the move. Cox is briefing congressional leaders. Separately, the government is seeking congressional authority to buy distressed assets.

This is nothing short of a total panic by people who have no clue what they are doing. And to think, I mocked Russia for being a nation run by market commies.

This is the ultimate bailout attempt, which will have repercussions far far beyond our imaginations:

1) We suffer a loss of Market Integrity; The US is now a Banana Republic

2) Blatant market manipulation: this is nothing more than an attempt to force markets higher;

3) 60 days prior to a presidential election? This is a none-too-subtle attempt to influence the elections — especially coming on top of the Fannie/Freddie bailout;

4) The coming pop will create a huge air pocket, ultimately leading to us crashing much lower;

5) Expect a huge increase in volatility — upwards first, then down;

We Are A Nation of Morons, led by complete Idiots, making us complicit in our own self destruction.

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Category: Bailouts, Markets, Psychology, Short Selling, Taxes and Policy

How SEC Regulatory Exemptions Helped Lead to Collapse


The losses incurred by Bear Stearns and other large broker-dealers were
not caused by “rumors” or a “crisis of confidence,” but rather by
inadequate net capital and the lack of constraints on the incurring of

Lee Pickard, former director, SEC trading and markets division.


Is Financial Innovation just another word for excessive and reckless leverage?

Apparently so.

As we learn this morning via Julie Satow of the NY Sun, special exemptions from the SEC are in large part responsible for the huge build up in financial sector leverage over the past 4 years — as well as the massive current unwind

Satow interviews the above quoted former SEC director, and he spits out the blunt truth: The current excess leverage now unwinding was the result of a purposeful SEC exemption given to five firms.

You read that right — the events of the past year are not a mere accident, but are the results of a conscious and willful SEC decision to allow these firms to legally violate existing net capital rules that, in the past 30 years, had limited broker dealers debt-to-net capital ratio to 12-to-1.

Instead, the 2004 exemption — given only to 5 firms — allowed them to lever up 30 and even 40 to 1.

Who were the five that received this special exemption? You won’t be surprised to learn that they were Goldman, Merrill, Lehman, Bear Stearns, and Morgan Stanley.

As Mr. Pickard points out that “The proof is in the pudding — three of the five broker-dealers have blown up.”

So while the SEC runs around reinstating short selling rules, and clueless pension fund managers mindlessly point to the wrong issue, we learn that it was the SEC who was in large part responsible for the reckless leverage that led to the current crisis.

You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.

Here’s an excerpt from The Sun:

“The Securities and Exchange Commission can blame itself for the current crisis. That is the allegation being made by a former SEC official, Lee Pickard, who says a rule change in 2004 led to the failure of Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, and Merrill Lynch.

The SEC allowed five firms — the three that have collapsed plus Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley — to more than double the leverage they were allowed to keep on their balance sheets and remove discounts that had been applied to the assets they had been required to keep to protect them from defaults.

Making matters worse, according to Mr. Pickard, who helped write the original rule in 1975 as director of the SEC’s trading and markets division, is a move by the SEC this month to further erode the restraints on surviving broker-dealers by withdrawing requirements that they maintain a certain level of rating from the ratings agencies.

“They constructed a mechanism that simply didn’t work,” Mr. Pickard said. “The proof is in the pudding — three of the five broker-dealers have blown up.”

The so-called net capital rule was created in 1975 to allow the SEC to oversee broker-dealers, or companies that trade securities for customers as well as their own accounts. It requires that firms value all of their tradable assets at market prices, and then it applies a haircut, or a discount, to account for the assets’ market risk. So equities, for example, have a haircut of 15%, while a 30-year Treasury bill, because it is less risky, has a 6% haircut.

The net capital rule also requires that broker dealers limit their debt-to-net capital ratio to 12-to-1, although they must issue an early warning if they begin approaching this limit, and are forced to stop trading if they exceed it, so broker dealers often keep their debt-to-net capital ratios much lower.

Chalk up another win for excess deregulation . . .


SEC’s Old Capital Approach Was Tried – and True
Lee A. Pickard
SECTION: VIEWPOINTS; Pg. 10 Vol. 173 No. 153
American Banker, August 8, 2008 Friday

Ex-SEC Official Blames Agency for Blow-Up of Broker-Dealers
They constructed a mechanism that simply didn’t work’
NY Sun, September 18, 2008

American Banker excerpt after the jump.

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Category: Bailouts, Credit, Legal, Markets, Taxes and Policy

Take A Number

Category: Bailouts, Taxes and Policy