Wednesday, September 10, 2008

You wouldn't know it if you watched the news!

I couldn't agree with you more, Dhakks.

How is free market economics supposed to correct market imbalances if the government bails out corporations every time they mess up? This is socialism for corporations! We either believe in free markets, or not.

Two interesting revelations I came across in NPR:
  • The first is that a significant part of Fannie and Freddie's capital is deferred tax credit, i.e. the present value of taxes that won't need to be paid as a result of losses that are carried forward. The problem is that these don't constitute assets that can be drawn upon in case of a crisis like this. Which basically means that the crisis was much more dire than imagined at first.
  • The second is that the combined outstanding debt of Fannie and Freddie is roughly $5 Trillion. Yes that's trillion, not billion. That is more debt at stake than any company in history. It's more than the debt of every country in the world except the US. Hell, its more than the GDP of every country in the world except the US. In fact, the crash of the Japanese economy would arguably be less of a strain on the world economy than Fannie and Freddie.
The aggregate cost of this debacle to the tax payers depends on how much of the loans will actually prove to be bad. Estimates range from $25BN to $200BN.

What has astonished me today is that effectively the US government has taken on $5 trillion in credit exposure upending a fundamental argument made by Reagan when privatizing these behemoths. The world, by general consensus, just avoided what is possibly the closest it has come to a global financial meltdown since the Great Depression, and the news has focused on lippygate and Lou Dobbs spent an hour on a tirade against illegal immigrants. This is surreal!

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