Saturday, September 27, 2008

$700 billion: cui bono?

Hunter in the Daily Kos (HTP: my brother) says that the $700 billion rescue plan has no relation to the (much smaller) likely amount of mortgage defaults; instead, it's designed to prop up the derivatives scam that banks have been running for years.

I've thought recently that the bankers and traders are, in effect, being offered absolution without confession (1), restitution (2), doing penance (3) or a "firm purpose of amendment" (4).

1. Full disclosure of all liabilities and "assets"; admission of each person's part in the debacle. This should be Watergate Plus: there's a lot more than four burglars and the damage to third parties is incalculable.
2. Preferably, repayment of past bonuses awarded at a time when the recipient knew, or ought to have known, that the game was destabilising his own firm and the national economy.
3. Ideally, jail time, for some; at least, loss of office for those responsible.
4. Adoption of regulations designed to maintain the value of the currency and prevent future speculative bubbles.

From time to time we hear the defence that the consumer was at fault, too. Perhaps, if you're thinking about home equity withdrawals; but even the boll weevil is "just looking for a home" as Leadbelly sang, and when banks opened the money sluices house prices doubled. The buyer had no option to purchase a home at 2002 prices in 2007 (and I'm not sure what happened to the cost of rent in that time). The lenders should have known what they were doing; the poorest borrowers were not their equals in expertise. There was a duty of care.

What would houses cost, if it had always been illegal to use them as collateral for debt? What would the US and UK economies look like, if the vast sums sunk into housing had gone into small business enterprises? How much wealthier would we be?


dearieme said...

I recently saw a suggestion that Paulson has to rescue Goldman Sachs because if it goes down his own time as CEO will be under scrutiny and he could be looking at jail time. A man might bend a knee to avoid such a fate.


How interesting. In that hypothetical case, couldn't such a man do time for corruption?