The Warren Report
"Liquidate the Banks; Fire the Executives!"
Six months and $1 trillion later, and Congress still cannot figure out what Geithner is up to. It's a wonder the Treasury Secretary hasn't been fired already.
From the report:
So, while Congress approved a mere $700 billion in emergency funding for the TARP, Geithner and Bernanke deftly sidestepped the public opposition to more bailouts and shoveled another $3.3 trillion through the back door via loans and leverage for crappy mortgage paper that will never regain its value. Additionally, the Fed has made a deal with Treasury that when the financial crisis finally subsides, Treasury will assume the Fed's obligations vis a vis the "lending facilities", which means the taxpayer will then be responsible for unknown trillions in withering investments.
From the report:
This statement shows that the congressional committee understands that Geithner's lunatic plan has no historic precedent and no prospect of succeeding. Geithner's circuitous Public-Private Investment Program (PPIP)--which is designed to remove toxic assets from bank balance sheets--is an end-run around "tried-and-true" methods for fixing the banking system. In the most restrained and diplomatic language, Warren is telling Geithner that she knows that he's up to no good.
From the report:
The committee agrees with the vast majority of reputable economists who think the banks should be taken over (liquidated) and the bad assets put up for auction. This is the committee's number one recommendation.
The committee also explores the pros and cons of conservatorship (which entails a reorganization in which bad assets are removed, failed managers are replaced, and parts of the business are spun off) and government subsidization, which involves capital infusions or the purchasing of troubled assets. Subsidization, however, carries the risk of distorting the market (by keeping assets artificially high) and creating a constant drain on government resources. Subsidization tends to create hobbled banks that continue to languish as wards of the state.
Liquidation, conservatorship and government subsidization; these are the three ways to fix the banking system. There is no fourth way. Geithner's plan is not a plan at all; it's mumbo-jumbo dignified with an acronym; PPIP. The Treasury Secretary is being as opaque as possible to stall for time while he diverts trillions in public revenue to his scamster friends at the big banks through capital injections and nutty-sounding money laundering programs like the PPIP.
From the report:
This is a crucial point; the toxic assets are not going to regain their value because their current market price--30 cents on the dollar for AAA mortgage-backed securities--accurately reflects the amount of risk they bear. The market is right and Geithner is wrong; it's that simple. Many of these securities are comprised of loans that were issued to people without sufficient income to make the payments. These "liar's loans" were bundled together with good loans into mortgage-backed securities. No one can say with any certainty what they are really worth. Naturally, there is a premium for uncertainty, which is why the assets are fetching a mere 30 cents on the dollar. This won't change no matter how much Geithner tries to prop up the market. The well has been already poisoned.
Also, according to this month’s Case-Schiller report, housing prices are falling at the fastest pace since their peak in 2006. That means that the market for mortgage-backed securities (MBS) will continue to plunge and the losses at the banks will continue to grow. The IMF recently increased its estimate of how much toxic mortgage-backed papaer the banks are holding to $4 trillion.
The banking system is underwater and needs to be resolved quickly before another Lehman-type crisis arises sending the economy into a protracted Depression. Geithner is clearly the wrong man for the job. His PPIP is nothing more than a stealth ripoff of public funds which uses confusing rules and guidelines to conceal the true objective, which is to shift toxic garbage onto the public's balance sheet while recapitalizing bankrupt financial institutions.
So, why is Geithner being kept on at Treasury when his plan has already been thoroughly discredited and his only goal is to bailout the banks through underhanded means?
That question was best answered by the former chief economist of the IMF, Simon Johnson, in an article which appeared in The Atlantic Monthly:
The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Many of their foot soldiers now occupy the highest offices in government. It's up to people like Elizabeth Warren to draw attention to the silent coup that has taken place and do whatever needs to be done to purge the moneylenders from the seat of power and restore representative government. It's a tall order and time is running out.
* http://cop.senate.gov/reports/library/report-040709-cop.cfm Elizabeth Warren's 8 minute video summary of the COP report.
Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org