Too Big To Fail
The wonder is that more Americans are not ticked off about the state of our country than whatever is happening ten thousand miles away. The disintegration of Ukraine would be best understood by Americans as a mirror of ourselves and our sclerotic republic, poised to sink into poverty and disorder. Everything we do and say rings hollow now. What used to be called The Establishment has run out of ways to even pretend to save itself. We have no idea what’s next, but it’s not going to be more of what’s been.
I find it supremely ironic that ‘We the People’ have become modern day North American Indians and are taking fiat beads in exchange for our valuable land and labor.
Ultimately, I think the problem for HFT liquidity providers is not that they are skinning investors, but that they are outsiders. They're doing what the keepers of the market infrastructure keys have always done - skin investors, retail and institutional alike, to the outer limits of what technology and the law allows. But while their outward behavior and appearance may be familiar, they are clearly an alien species on the inside, without so much as a microgram of Wall Street DNA. They are Rakshasa's. HFT liquidity providers are technology companies disguised as financial intermediaries. They hijacked the market infrastructure in the aftermath of the Great Recession, stealing it away from under the noses of the big financial firms who had come to see control over market structure as their birthright, and they had a good run. But now the big boys want their market infrastructure back, and they're going to get it.
First we deny, then we deny we ever denied, and then we forget we were ever in denial. Man is an extremely efficient organic computing machine, so this is just kid’s stuff we learn right out of the crib.
Is the US or the World Coming to an End? It will be one or the other
2014 is shaping up as a year of reckoning for the United States. One of two things is likely: Either the US dollar will be abandoned and collapse in value, thus ending Washington’s superpower status and Washington’s threat to world peace, or Washington will lead its puppets into military conflict with Russia and China. The outcome of such a war would be far more devastating than the collapse of the US dollar.
If the Fed is so powerful, why is it so cowardly and fearful that it has to cloak its theft of our money and its transfer of the wealth to the banks? What's it so afraid of? That we might wake up to the fact that we're being Fed to the sharks, every day, one morsel at a time?
There is a gloriously simple solution to all the world's TBTF problems, one that could be enacted in a HFT millisecond by pulling the trigger, so to speak. The solution comes from none other than that historic US nemesis, Vietnam, where unscrupulous financiers don't just go to jail. Sometimes, they get death row.
Is there any hope that we might actually elect a president with the mandate and courage to take down Wall Street instead of kissing its rear end in humiliating obeisance? The 2016 presidential election may be far away to those obsessed with the news cycle, but it's not too early to express one single hope: that we finally elect a president who doesn't kiss Wall Street's rear end every single day for four/eight years running. Either the next president issues an executive order (or whatever it takes) to enact these four administrative rules, or he/she is kissing Wall Street's rear end every single day of his/her administration.
The risk that creditors, savers and bondholders, rather than taxpayers will bear the brunt of rescuing a bank in trouble form part of the first credit ratings given to 18 of Europe's biggest banks yesterday by new ratings agency, Scope.
Though the mainstream financial media and the blogosphere differ radically on their forecasts - the MFM sees near-zero systemic risk while the alternative media sees a critical confluence of it - they agree on one thing: the Federal Reserve and the “too big to fail” (TBTF) Wall Street banks have their hands on the political and financial tiller of the nation, and nothing will dislodge their dominance. In addition, the U.S. dollar’s status as a reserve currency is a key component of U.S. global dominance. Were the dollar to be devalued by Fed/Wall Street policies to the point that it lost its reserve status, the damage to American influence and wealth would be irreversible. What if there is another possibility to the consensus view that the Fed/Wall Street will continue to issue credit and currency with abandon until the inevitable consequence occurs, i.e. the dollar is devalued and loses its reserve status. What if Wall Street’s power has peaked and is about to be challenged by forces that it has never faced before. Put another way, the power of Wall Street has reached a systemic extreme where a decline or reversal is inevitable.
- GM enters harsh spotlight as Congress hearings begin (Reuters)
- Facebook's Zuckerberg earns $3.3bn through share options (BBC)
- Sheryl Sandberg has sold more than half her stake in FaceBook (FT)
- Chinese Dragnet Entangles Family of Former Security Chief, Zhou Yongkang (WSJ)
- NHTSA chief: GM did not share critical information with U.S. agency (Reuters)
- Citigroup uncovered rogue trading in Mexico, fired two bond traders (Reuters)
- Corporate America’s overseas cash pile rises to $947bn (FT)
- Thai anti-government protester killed, rekindling political crisis (Reuters)
- China Milk Thirst Hands U.S. Dairies Record 2014 Profits (BBG)
- Caterpillar accused of ‘shifting’ profits (FT)
- New iPhone 6 screens to enter production as early as May (Reuters)
For some inane reason, about a year ago, there was a brief - and painfully boring - academic tussle between one group of clueless economists and another group of clueless economists, debating whether Too Big To Fail banks enjoy an implicit or explicit taxpayer subsidy, courtesy of their systematic importance (because apparently the fact that these banks only exist because they are too big in the first place must have been lost on both sets of clueless economists). Naturally, it goes without saying that the Fed, which as even Fisher now admits, has over the past five years, worked solely for the benefit of its banker owners and a few good billionaires, has done everything in its power to subsidize banks as much as possible, which is why this debate was so ridiculous it merited precisely zero electronic ink from anyone who is not a clueless economist. Today, the debate, for what it's worth, is finally over, when yet another set of clueless economists, those of the NY Fed itself, say clearly and on the record, that TBTF banks indeed do get a subsidy. To wit: " in fact, the very largest (top-five) nonbank firms also enjoy a funding advantage, but for very large banks it’s significantly larger, suggesting there’s a TBTF funding advantage that’s unique to mega-banks."
For five long years, we have pursued the fantasy that we could return to "growth" without having to fix or change anything. The core policy of the fantasy is the consensus of "serious economists," i.e. those accepted into the priesthood of PhD economists protected by academic tenure or state positions: what we suffered in 2009 was not the collapse of leveraged crony-state financialization but a temporary decline of "aggregate demand" and productive capacity. The five-year fantasy that free money would fix all the distortions and systemic problems is drawing to a close. Why can't the fantasy run forever? The two-word answer: diminishing returns. Handing out subprime auto loans works at first because it pulls demand forward: anyone who wants or needs a new car buys one now, rather than put the purchase off a year or two. Eventually the marginal buyers default and demand falls off, and the distortions cause an even greater collapse in demand and auto loan quality.
Does anything about 2014 remind you of 2008? The long lists of visible stress in the global financial system and the almost laughably hollow assurances that there are no bubbles, everything is under control, etc. etc. etc. certainly remind me of the late-2007-early 2008 period when the subprime mortgage meltdown was already visible and officialdom from Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan on down were mounting the bully pulpit at every opportunity to declare that there was no bubble in housing and the system was easily able to handle little things like defaulting mortgages. The party, once again, is clearly ending and raises the question: "If asset bubbles no longer boost full-time employment or incomes across the board, what is the broad-based, “social good” justification for inflating them?"
Let's be clear about one thing (to quote the president): the Fed's policies have been an unqualified success for financiers and an abject failure for everyone who has to work for a living. The Fed has not just failed to rectify the nation's obscene inequality in wealth and income; it has actively widened it by handing guaranteed returns to the banks and financiers while strip-mining what's left of the middle and working classes' non-labor income, i.e. interest on savings.