Monday, November 15, 2010

Off on Maiden Lane.

From my perspective, an "economic recovery" that requires a tripling in the Fed's balance sheet, continues to average 450,000 new unemployment claims weekly, and relies on fiscal stimulus to counter utterly stagnant personal income, is ipso facto (by the fact itself) not a "standard" economic recovery. We have swept an enormous volume of bad debt under rugs, behind dams, and in back of curtains (not to mention in off-balance sheet vehicles such as Maiden Lane that were created by the Federal Reserve). But it is all effectively still there, festering. Meanwhile, our policy makers are trying to reignite financial bubbles in order to create an illusory "wealth effect" to propagate spending patterns that were inappropriate in the first place.

It is a bizarre notion that a credit crisis can be solved by bailing out lenders while doing nothing about the obligations on the borrower side. Think about it - what we have said to lenders is, here you have these homeowners who can't pay for their houses. Foreclose on them, sell the homes at half the price, and the public will make you whole (largely through Treasury bailouts to Fannie and Freddie, made necessary by Federal Reserve purchases of these securities).

Heck, if the public is going to be on the hook anyway, at least notice that at equivalent cost to the public, the mortgage could simply be written down to half its value, with the homeowner now able to pay the balance off and the lender getting the public handout to make up the difference. But of course, that would reward the homeowner. So instead, we simply make the lenders whole while people lose their homes and foreclosure investors flip the homes at a profit in return for providing liquidity at the auction. That way, the same amount of public funds can be spent through the back door without Congress even getting involved.

-- John Hussman