Posts Tagged ‘bric countries’

Will Timothy Geithner Destroy The U.S. Economy In Order To Save It?

February 10th, 2009 Comments off
The Global Economic Crisis evolved as a worldwide phenomenon, as major banks and financial institutions in virtually every significant economy became infected by toxic assets exported by the securitization engineers on Wall Street. Last October, the United States with its TARP, followed by major European countries including the UK, Germany and France injected previously unheard-of sums of borrowed money into their banks. This panic-driven injection of liquidity was sparked by the impending collapse of the global credit system.

Treasury departments and central banks far and near assured their publics that this speedy borrowing spree by the decision-makers had rescued the world’s financial system, thus serving the interests of the now heavily-leveraged taxpayer. Now, only three months later, it is clear that at a terrible financial cost, at most a short respite was purchased. The temporary lull in the LIBOR rate cannot, however, camouflage the essential truth; the major banks and financial institutions in many major economies, particularly in the United States and United Kingdom, are for all practical purposes insolvent.

A banking system that is insolvent is dysfunctional in the extreme. That is the core of the credit crunch that has now precipitated a Global Economic Crisis so egregiously destructive, it will likely exceed the Great Depression of the 1930s in its impact. This is why all the costly deficit spending on economic stimulus packages being enacted in the G7, BRIC and eurozone countries are doomed to failure. The key decision makers are aware of this conundrum, which is why they are frantically searching for a solution to the banking disaster that has frozen normal credit flows throughout the global economy.

The new U.S. Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, postponed his speech on how the Obama administration intended to resolve the banking and credit crisis by 24 hours. Whatever solution he ultimately proposes it will probably, like TARP before it, be insufficient and require further interventions by the Treasury Department and the U.S. taxpayer. Indeed, dark clouds are obscuring an horrific reality; the American banking sector is insolvent to such an immense degree, it would in all likelihood require recapitalization at a level counted not in hundreds of billions, but rather trillions of dollars.

The paradox is that the U.S. economy, as with any other, cannot function without a solvent banking sector. At the same time, it cannot afford the cost of salvaging its banks. Consider what Professor Nouriel Roubini said in a recent interview with the Financial Times: “In many countries the banks may be too big to fail but also too big to save, as the fiscal/financial resources of the sovereign may not be large enough to rescue such large insolvencies in the financial system.”

Thus, the United States created a banking system with large institutions that are too big to fail, due to the systemic risk such a collapse would impose on the national and even global economy. It compounded this roll of the dice by removing any coherent regulatory regimes, instead trusting in the “self-correcting” character of the unregulated marketplace, which encouraged risky behaviors, otherwise known as “innovation,” leading to the creation of unsustainable asset bubbles.

Geithner may try to sugar-coat what in effect will be a TARP II, knowing that the public and its congressional representatives will be reluctant to mortgage the financial future of their children for the sake of another bank bailout. However, no matter how the Obama administration packages its own TARP II bank rescue effort, it is increasingly likely that the foreign credit markets the United States relies on for financing its grandiose deficit spending will simply lack the capacity to loan all the money needed to recapitalize America’s banks.

In the event the credit markets are unable to finance the rescue of the U.S. banking sector, then the lender of last resort will undoubtedly be the Federal Reserve. By resorting to quantitative easing, the Fed may purchase Treasury bills with bank notes it simply generates off of its printing press. In essence this is legal counterfeiting, conjuring up fiat money out of thin air. It may lead to the recapitalization of the banks, on paper. But the net cost will be the destruction of the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency, along with the displacement of the current trend of deflation with a virulent and potentially uncontrollable outbreak of hyperinflation.

The bank rescue mission the U.S. Treasury Department and the Fed are currently embarked upon reminds me of what a U.S. Army spokesman once told journalists during the Vietnam War: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”

I fear that this same reasoning may be at work among the policy-makers in Washington, through the enactment of decisions that will destroy what remains of the U.S. economy in order to bailout the “too big to fail banks.” In this instance, however, it is not a village, but the whole global economy that hangs precariously in the balance.


Fiscal Chemotherapy Masquerading As Cure For Global Economic Crisis

February 4th, 2009 Comments off
During the medieval epoch, the pseudo-science of alchemy arose to enable the primitive economies of Europe, during the Dark Ages, to transcend their feudal limitations. Alchemists claimed they could transmute base metals into gold through their mysterious machinations. It never worked, yet for centuries alchemists aroused the hopes of vast multitudes of the savviest citizens of their era. Flash forward to the dawn of the 21st century, and we are witnessing the emergence of a new pseudo-science as the center of salvation for the ravages of the Global Economic Crisis.

The inept policy-makers and their legions of technocrats, as with the alchemists of so long ago, are claiming that their own permutation of economics will somehow create gold out of thin air, thus terminating the Global Economic Crisis and restoring prosperity. They tried monetary policy, however with interest rates on central bank funds in many major economies at effectively a rate of zero, and the global economy only falling further into the abyss, a new bag of tricks must be offered to the pubic.

The massive debt-driven stimulus spending plans being unveiled with monotonous regularity by the political leaders of the major economies are nothing more than fiscal chemotherapy. With the Global Economic Crisis having metastasized beyond the point of containment, this disastrous flirtation with national insolvency by policy-makers will only accelerate the path to global economic disintegration.

The major proponent of fiscal chemotherapy is the United States, which will in the near future pass a so-called “economic recovery plan” that will initially cost one trillion dollars over two years. However, even without this stimulus plan, the U.S. federal budget is already projected to incur a deficit of $1.2 trillion. Add in the stimulus, plus hundreds of billions of more dollars required for bank bailouts beyond the $700 billion TARP fiasco, then factor in the sharp decline in revenue from taxation as businesses go bankrupt and millions more Americans lose their jobs, and it is clear that the U.S. Treasury will have to borrow far more than even the stratospheric projection of $1.2 trillion. But it gets worse.

Politicians close to the Obama administration, as well as some economists who stand by the Keynesian formula for combating economic recessions, have already strongly hinted that the $1 trillion stimulus package will not be nearly enough to resolve the economic crisis, and will have to be massively enlarged and repeated. What this in effect means is that the United States will be compelled to borrow untold trillions of dollars for years to come. Now, with domestic credit possibilities utterly exhausted, it is to foreign creditors that the U.S. Treasury must look to for financing the profligate budgetary deficits of the United States.

Unfortunately for the U.S. Treasury Department, virtually every major economic actor on the planet is also replicating grandiose deficit spending wrapped up as stimulus packages. This includes almost all the G7 and BRIC countries. More alarming for the U.S., one of those nations is China, looked upon as the major source of available credit by the Treasury Department. However, China currently has its own priorities, now that the Global Economic Crisis is beginning to batter the world’s third largest economy in severe ways. A normally reticent Chinese government has disclosed that the number of unemployed migrant workers in their country now tops 20 million. It is for that reason that the authorities in China have begun a stimulus-spending program currently budgeted at $600 billion, but almost certainly to grow substantially beyond that figure.

The economic contraction hitting China means far fewer surplus dollars generated by Chinese savers. The credit pool in China is now shrinking, and most of those funds will logically be used to finance the government’s operating deficit in China, as opposed to the United States.

If China dries up as a source of credit for the U.S. government, where is the alternative? The Gulf Arab states are also being lacerated by the Global Economic Crisis, as the implosion of oil commodity prices has created severe budgetary constraints in the previously abundant coffers of OPEC. As with China, whatever sovereign wealth or other surplus funds are still available will be directed in the first instance towards enhanced domestic spending deemed necessary to maintain social cohesion.

The essential point is that the fiscal chemotherapy that suggests that, as with a cancer patient, the toxicity of the medicine, in this case budgetary deficits, must be absorbed for the short-term to preserve the long-term health of the patient is nonsensical in the extreme. There simply will not be enough credit in the entire world to finance the budgetary deficits that are likely to arise in the United States as well as other major economies. Rather than pursue the only sane fiscal option available, namely radical budgetary surgery (as with massive trimming of bloated U.S. military spending), the mediocre elites dominating U.S. decision-making circles have chosen to go down the route of fiscal chemotherapy and economic alchemy, which can only result in terminal consequences for the American economy.