Monday, April 06, 2009

EZ Reads: Pesach Cleaning - It's The Economy, Stupid

  • To start, it's probably a good idea to know just what a trillion dollars looks like (in hundreds). [Hat tip: Corner Point]
  • xkcd says it's also important to be honest about the differences between Millions and Billions.
  • On the Jewish side, Nefesh Yehudi sums up what a stimulus is in a funny way...
  • ...except it's not so funny when a reporter goes undercover to see how hard it would be to pull a Ponzi scheme on Charedim, and finds it to be incredibly easy.
  • Hirhurim says it's not your fault if you're out of a job, and God is not upset at you.
  • That won't stop this Indexed, though:
  • Speaking of unemployment, the real rate is more like... 19.8%!? Ouch.
  • A very interesting piece on usury and how it has changed the approach to debt.
  • This honest piece from Howard Marks of Oaktree shows where the models failed, and no matter what changes were made, they simply weren't good enough. It also shows just how unprecedented this drop was.
  • The next big shock will be pension underfunding. This is scary.
  • Of course, the Obama administration isn't doing much to stop it, just nonsensically limiting bonuses, driving people to foreign banks except where Wall Street gives higher salaries (which cost more than bonuses in the long run, I believe).
  • Meanwhile, the government approach is so bad and dishonest that the FHLB chairman actually quit over the FDIC "accounting alchemy", which is just scary. The FHLB is the largest borrower of taxpayer money, at $1.26 trillion.
    The year-end balance sheet at the FHLBank of Seattle, for example, showed $5.6 billion of non-government mortgage-backed securities that it says it will hold until maturity. Yet the estimated value of those securities was just $3.6 billion. The bank, which reported a $199.4 million net loss for 2008, said the declines were only temporary. They’ve been anything but fleeting, though. Most of those securities have been worth less than they cost for more than a year.
  • It's also got huge holes, which allows hedge funds and banks to exploit taxpayer money to protect themselves.
  • And most sadly, it may be using companies like AIG to fudge what are normally illegal transactions into legal ones for the purpose of channeling money to banks.
    AIG, knowing it would need to ask for much more capital from the Treasury imminently, decided to throw in the towel, and gifted major bank counter-parties with trades which were egregiously profitable to the banks, and even more egregiously money losing to the U.S. taxpayers, who had to dump more and more cash into AIG, without having the U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner disclose the real extent of this, for lack of a better word, fraudulent scam.

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