Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Crisis? What Crisis?

Journalists, start your skepticism.
by David Cay Johnston, Poyntor Forum

Ask this question -- are the credit markets really about to seize up?

If they are then lots of business owners should be eager to tell how their bank is calling their 90-day revolving loans, rejecting new loans and demanding more cash on deposit. I called businessmen I know yesterday and not one of them reported such problems. Indeed, Citibank offered yesterday to lend me tens of thousands of dollars on my signature at 2.99 percent, well below the nearly 5 percent inflation rate. That offer came after I said no last week to a 4.99 percent loan.

If the problem is toxic mortgages then how come they are still being offered all over the Internet? On the main page AOL generates for me there is an ad for a 1.9% loan (which means you pay that interest rate and the rest of the interest is added to your balance due.) Why oh why or why would taxpayers be bailing out banks that are continuing to sell these toxic loans?

How does the proposal help Joe and Mary Sixpack who can afford their current monthly payment, but not the increased interest rate that has been or soon will take effect? Every day bankers work out loans with customers -- so why are taxpayers being asked to act when banks are largely on strike, refusing to negotiate revised deals with many loan customers?

How about interviewing small landlords who were drawn into these toxic loans. Are banks negotiating with them? If not it means more foreclosures and renters who had nothing to do with this being evicted. Ask why banks are refusing (landlords I spoke to said they are) to negotiate with small landlords.

What steps are being taken to take back bonuses, fees and other compensation from the folks who got rich selling toxic mortgages and illiquid investments that Secretary Paulsen claims are threatening the whole system.


Why have both Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley made clear that they want IN on this deal? Get skeptical and ask the basic questions -- who benefits, how much and what makes this plan so attractive that Goldman and MS want to participate? Ditto for GE. That they are others want to be included should prompt a great deal of skeptical questioning.



Yes, and just today it seems that Warren Buffett wants to grab some cash with both hands too. Berkshire Hathaway just bought $5 billion of preferred shares from Goldman Sachs with the further option to buy another $5 billion of common stock.

If I had the means to get to the table with that kind of money behind me I would feast long and deep on the delicious giveaway D.C. is preparing for Wall Street. It really is just like Las Vegas. After a hard day's gambling and almost losing your shirt you can still make it the prime rib dinners available all over town.

Greed. It's what's for dinner!