Sunday, July 12, 2015

Trump, Greece and debt

Trump's temporary surge in the polls (I hope it's temporary) is good for giggles, especially when he gives weirdo speeches like this one.
Trump proposed that protesters and critics were being sent by the government of Mexico to oppose him.

"They were so sophisticated. I guarantee you that the country of Mexico had those people [sent there]," Trump said.
We've entered an age in which the political candidates are even better at coming up with paranoid horseshit than are Alex Jones and David Icke.

My purpose in writing about Trump this day is not to talk about Machiavellian Mexicans, but to draw your attention to the concepts of money, debt, and bankruptcy. You see, Trump claims to possess lots and lots of the long green...
Trump mocked media outlets for doubting his self-proclaimed $9 billion fortune, proof of which the real-estate mogul claims that he will release next week.

"I'm much, much richer than what they say," Trump said. "I'm a private person, nobody knows."
(A "private" person who appears on reality TV and runs for the presidency? Giggles galore!)

Now, if Trump really is worth billions, then he obviously did not have to endure much austerity when his businesses went through bankruptcy -- four times. A company files Chapter 11 only when it cannot pay its debts. Except for the first go-round (which did hit his personal interests fairly hard), Trump never got his infamous hair mussed by these crises.

Nevertheless, Trump says that he would have forced GM to go under.

What, I wonder, would he have to say about Greece?

At this writing, Germany is now preparing for a "temporary" Greek exit from the euro -- a move which may well presage the end of the euro project. The end of the euro would hit Germany hard, since a return to the Deutschmark would probably make it harder for Germans to move their high-end products. This factor gives the debtor some leverage over the debt-holder. Thus, this.

On Moon of Alabama a few days ago, one of the comments made an interesting comparison:
The money Greece owes, $370 billion, compared to the taxpayer-funded bailouts banks got...

Citigroup - Citigroup $2.513 Trillion
Morgan Stanley - $2.041 Trillion
Merrill Lynch - $1.949 Trillion
Bank of America - $1.344 Trilliom
Barclays PLC - $868 Billion
Bear Sterns - $853 B
Goldman Sachs - $814 B
Royal Bank of Scotland - $541 B
JP Morgan Chase $391 B
Deutche Bank - $354 B
UBS - $287 B
Credit Suisse - $262 B
Lehman Bros - $183 B
Bank of Scotland - $181 B
BNP Paribas - $175 B
Wells Fargo - $159 B
Dexia - $159 B
Wachovia - $142 B
Dresdner Bank - $135 B
Some will say "Yeah, but the banks paid back the money." True enough. But was that outcome known at the time? For the full, infuriating truth about the TARP bailouts, read Matt Taibbi's classic 2013 piece. Did you know that some banks (smaller ones, mostly) that repaid the TARP money did so by borrowing yet more money from the Treasury, thereby escaping restrictions on executive bonuses? It's crazy.

Despite all of that borrowed cash -- backed by Joe and Jill Taxpayer -- the people who ran those banks never had to institute austerity measures. Lloyd Blankfein never had to move into a 3+2 in the suburbs with a seven-year-old Hyundai in the driveway.

In this world, austerity is not for elitists like Trump or Blankfein. Austerity is for 70 year-old Greek fishermen who worked hard, didn't follow politics very closely, and were just hoping to relax a bit in their senior years.
Let's also remember, much of the "repayment" was in the form of special tax breaks initiated for this purpose. Barry Ritholtz covered this, in actuality, the above financial firms paid tiny fractions of what they borrowed, most of the repayment was in the form of an increase of US Taxpayer debt...yes Mabel, that's what tax breaks to "special people" do, they are year in year subsidies that once passed, never show up on the budget again.

"The U.S. government gives away more than $1 trillion a year in tax breaks — subsidies for individuals and companies that are often substitutes for direct government spending. Once written into the tax code, they tend to stick around. Last year, tax breaks nearly matched income tax revenue" - WaPo
In contrast to the banks, there was at the same time a bail-out of major vehicle manufacturing companies which came saddled with all sorts of lender-imposed restrictions on wages and benefits.
What we've witnessed in Greece is the abandonment of even the pretense of democracy for the benefit of the banks - a coup d'état staged by Big Finance. They were clever enough to insure that austerity didn't touch the Greek military, too. These are really dark days.
"The end of the euro would hit Germany hard".

What currencies would be introduced in, say, Ireland or Italy? Would anyone on the international markets want to buy new Irish punts or new Italian lira?

The concept of the end of the euro is being given exaggerated weight in Britain, mainly because Britain is outside the eurozone and the line in Britain is that foreigners in general are stupid and southern Europeans in particular are not only stupid but shortsighted and excitable and don't have straight backs like Mr Poshy Sir in Her Majesty's Tory Party and Civil Service who always have stiff upper lips, like they learnt to have when they went to boarding school.

Yet Britain is the bankiest major country in the EU and is likely to be hit especially hard by a western financial crash, probably harder than Germany. At least Germany still produces some stuff, stuff that might be barterable or even saleable.

Meanwhile, people are being allowed to believe that the ECB could legally stop Greece from using the euro, when they couldn't. Idiot news consumers have forgotten what they learnt last year about an independent Scotland possibly continuing to use sterling without permission from the rump-British central bank.

It's making me vomit, the way all the experts are bollocking on about the euro in the most superficial way, distracting attention from the more important issue of a possible breakdown in international trade, and in domestic trade too in some areas, which in the absence of social revolution would for certain mean not just pension loss in the absence of welfare (which is bad enough!) but famine. SHTF time. Reach for your bug out bags.

The end of the euro would mean

* a stop to the issue of that currency
* a move by national governments in what's now the eurozone to printing their own national currencies
* depositors holding accounts denominated in euros being told that they will only be allowed to withdraw funds some other who the fuck knows what currency? The German government could introduce new deutschmarks, but they're unlikely to pay deutschmarks to Swiss banks that hold euro deposits for German customers.

Meanwhile the US debt-to-GDP ratio isn't much lower than Greece's, so those depositors who get their money out of euro-dominated accounts in some currency or other, or see it converted to some other currency in new acounts, are unlikely to be falling over each other in a rush to buy US dollars.

No currency is looking strong. Not sterling, not the rouble.
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