In which George Washington apologizes for Yves being prematurely correct
[Oops, as jawbone points out, I wrote in haste. GW is confessing not only for himself, but for Yves, and I pulled her links and dates out. My bad, 50 lashes with a wet noodle. Read it all anyhow. --lambert]
It didn’t have to be like this. The European nations did not have to sacrifice themselves for the sake of their big banks.
As I pointed out in December 2008:
The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) is often called the “central banks’ central bank”, as it coordinates transactions between central banks.
BIS points out in a new report that the bank rescue packages have transferred significant risks onto government balance sheets, which is reflected in the corresponding widening of sovereign credit default swaps:
The scope and magnitude of the bank rescue packages also meant that significant risks had been transferred onto government balance sheets. This was particularly apparent in the market for CDS referencing sovereigns involved either in large individual bank rescues or in broad-based support packages for the financial sector, including the United States. While such CDS were thinly traded prior to the announced rescue packages, spreads widened suddenly on increased demand for credit protection, while corresponding financial sector spreads tightened.
In other words, by assuming huge portions of the risk from banks trading in toxic derivatives, and by spending trillions that they don’t have, central banks have put their countries at risk from default.
But nations had no choice but to bail out their banks, did they?
Well, actually, they did.
The leading monetary economist told the Wall Street Journal that this was not a liquidity crisis, but an insolvency crisis. She said that Bernanke is fighting the last war, and is taking the wrong approach (as are other central bankers).
Nobel economist Paul Krugman and leading economist James Galbraith agree. They say that the government’s attempts to prop up the price of toxic assets no one wants is not helpful.
BIS slammed the easy credit policy of the Fed and other central banks, the failure to regulate the shadow banking system, “the use of gimmicks and palliatives”, and said that anything other than (1) letting asset prices fall to their true market value, (2) increasing savings rates, and (3) forcing companies to write off bad debts “will only make things worse”.
Remember, America wasn’t the only country with a housing bubble. The world’s central bankers let a global housing bubble develop. As I noted in December 2008:
… The bubble was not confined to the U.S.
There was a worldwide bubble in real estate.
Indeed, the Economist magazine wrote in 2005 that the worldwide boom in residential real estate prices in this decade was "the biggest bubble in history". The Economist noted that – at that time – the total value of residential property in developed countries rose by more than $30 trillion, to $70 trillion, over the past five years – an increase equal to the combined GDPs of those nations.
And the bubble in commercial real estate is also bursting world-wide. See this.
BIS also cautioned that bailouts could harm the economy (as did the former head of the Fed’s open market operations). Indeed, the bailouts create a climate of moral hazard which encourages more risky behavior. Nobel prize winning economist George Akerlof predicted in 1993 that credit default swaps would lead to a major crash, and that future crashes were guaranteed unless the government stopped letting big financial players loot by placing bets they could never pay off when things started to go wrong, and by continuing to bail out the gamblers.
These truths are as applicable in Europe as in America. The central bankers have done the wrong things. They haven’t fixed anything, but simply transferred the cancerous toxic derivatives and other financial bombs from the giant banks to the nations themselves.
NOTE I want make the point that Naked Capitalism is a great blog that you should follow. The writing, the analysis, and the subject matter are far more interesting than the "political" blogs. In fact, the career "progressives" focus on legacy party kabuki. Yves focuses on political econonmy. She follows the money (albeit from the top).