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"hank Paulson's Folly: Aig Was Safe Enough To Fail" Part 1

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A decisive tipping point in the evolution of American capitalism and democracy—the triumph of crony capitalism—took place on October 3, 2008. That was the day of the forced march approval on Capitol Hill of the $700 billion TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) bill to bail out Wall Street. This spasm of financial market intervention, including multi-trillion-dollar support lines provided to the big banks and financial companies by the Federal Reserve, was but the latest brick in the foundation of a fundamentally anti-capitalist régime known as “Too Big to Fail” (TBTF). It had been under construction for many decades, but now there was no turning back. The Wall Street bailouts of 2008 shattered what little remained of the old-time fiscal rules.

There was no longer any pretense that the free market should determine winners and losers and that tapping the public treasury requires proof of compelling societal benefit. Not when AAA-rated General Electric had been given $30 billion in taxpayer loans and guarantees to avoid taking modest losses on toxic assets it had foolishly funded with overnight borrowings that suddenly couldn’t be rolled over.

Even more improbably, Goldman Sachs had been handed $10 billion to save itself from alleged extinction. Yet it then swiveled on a dime and generated a $29 billion financial surplus—$16 billion in salary and bonuses on top of $13 billion in net income—for the year that began just three months later.

Even if Goldman didn’t really need the money, as it later claimed, a round trip from purported rags to evident riches in fifteen months stretched the bounds of credulity. It was reminiscent of actor Gary Cooper’s immortal 1950s expression of suspicion about Communism. “From what I have heard about it,” he told a congressional committee, “it isn’t on the level.”

Nor was Washington’s panicked bailout of Wall Street on the level; it was both unnecessary and targeted at the wrong problem. The so-called financial meltdown was not the real crisis; it was only the tip of the iceberg, the leading edge of a more fundamental economic malady. In truth, the US economy was heading for the wringer because a multi-decade spree of unsustainable borrowing, speculation, and financialization of the national economy was coming to an abrupt end.


This abrupt turn in the road should not have been surprising. America’s fantastic collective binging on debt, public and private, had no historical precedent. During the century prior to 1980, for example, total public and private debt on US balance sheets rarely exceeded 1.6 times GDP. When the national borrowing spree reached its apogee in 2007, however, the $4 trillion of new debt issued by households, business, banks, and governments amounted to 6 times that year’s $700 billion gain in GDP. Plain and simple, what was being recorded as GDP growth was little more than faux prosperity borrowed from the future.

In fact, by the time of the financial crisis total US debt outstanding was $52 trillion and represented 3.6 times national income of $14 trillion. Accordingly, there were now two full turns of extra debt weighing on the nation’s economy. And the embedded math was forbidding: at the historic leverage ratio of 1.6 times national income, which had prevailed for most of the hundred years prior to 1980, total US public and private debt would have been only $22 trillion at the end of 2008.

So the nation’s households, businesses, and taxpayers were now lugging around the aforementioned $30 trillion in excess debt. This staggering financial burden dwarfed levels which had historically been proven to be healthy, prudent, and sustainable. TARP and all its kindred bailouts and the Fed’s ceaseless money printing could not relieve it.

Debt / leverage none of it matters when you keep printing. Plus the rich are getting richer and that's all that matters.

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Debt / leverage none of it matters when you keep printing. Plus the rich are getting richer and that's all that matters.

Capitalism is dead...as said in the article...subsidies approved by politicians paid to their banister friends

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