Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I keep getting "pushback" from people in the mortgage industry and elsewhere, especially related to my Youtube Videos, with all sorts of claims that "we can't go after all the fraud in the mortgage business - get over it", along with similar missives.

Folks, you need to understand something very clearly, because Bernnake and the rest of the policymakers have laid out the truth for you - if you care to listen.

Fully 2/3rds of credit provided in our economic system is non-bank lending.

That is, it is hedge funds, sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, insurance companies and both foreign and domestic private investors who have extra capital they do not need at the moment, and they are willing to lend that money into the economy.

These are the buyers of securitized debt instruments.

This market is closed.

Both ASF (American Securitization Forum) and Federal Reserve statistics say that there has been essentially no securitized debt issuance over the last six months.


That market is closed because this class of investors was gang raped by the pernicious and outrageous fraud up and down the line within the market.

Arguing over whether the banks are responsible for not verifying information provided (they are), automated approvals are responsible (they are), ratings agencies are responsible for being essentially purchased rubber stamps (they are) or borrowers who fraudulently overstated income and understated debt (they are) misses the point.

The point is that all of these factors are in fact elements of fraud.

All of these are willful and knowing misrepresentation - either by omission or commission - of the risks and true credit profile of the collateral, borrower's character and capacity, market assumptions used in modeling or all of the above.

The fact of the matter is that this 2/3rds of the credit provided to our market has left and is not coming back until the misrepresentation ends and they can be assured that it will not happen again.

That is, these people are demanding their pound of flesh using the most powerful weapon they have - their checkbook.

As just one of many examples:

Feb. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Asian investors won’t buy debt and mortgage-backed securities from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac until they carry explicit U.S. guarantees, similar to those given on bonds issued by Bank of America Corp. or Citigroup Inc.

And why should they?

These investors got boned. Repeatedly. In the non-agency market they didn't just get boned they got gang-raped, with losses in some cases on CDOs and similar being 100%.

These events are not supposed to happen, according to risk modeling. And if the risk model actually had put into it the quality of underwriting (none), the verification of income and assets (none), a realistic model of credit growth and asset prices (ha!) and similar, it wouldn't have - because there would have been no competitive market for those securities at the prices asked.

The argument that this was all "the bank's fault" is simply not true. The blame is spread across the curve - the fact that your local bank has no guard does not give license to someone that desires to come in and rob it; in that case we penalize the bank but we still lock up the bank robber.

But all of this belies the underlying problem: in the attempt to divert attention from one group or another - and all of the guilty parties are engaged in it at this point, including Congress and our other regulatory agencies such as The Fed - we are forgetting that the private capital is still gone and until we find a way to guarantee that another assault will not happen that capital will not return.

As I listen to Bernanke's testimony in front of both the House and Senate, and as I watched President Obama's speech last night, I remain stunned by the lack of recognition of the above facts.

While lawmakers and policymakers such as Bernanke continue to blame "understaffing" (code in DC for "we want more money") and the lack of fully-formed plans, the fact remains that unless private capital can be convinced to return, and soon, we are headed for an economic depression worse than the 1930s.

This is not some manner of conjecture or fear-mongering - it is a fact that there is absolutely no way we can maintain our standard of living or economic output at anywhere near former levels with 2/3rds of credit capacity gone, nor can we replace that 2/3rds of the former capacity via other means.

To put this in perspective we are talking about a $50 trillion (roughly) credit universe for the United States; 2/3rds of that is ~$30 trillion dollars. It is simply not possible for the government or Fed to replace this, which is why even with a commitment of $9 trillion as has been made thus far the economy is not responding; 2/3rds of what disappeared is still gone and yet trying to actually fund $9 trillion through T-bond sales would cause an immediate implosion in the Treasury market.

We therefore have two choices, and if we do not pick #1 we will get #2:

  1. Stop "the bezzle" - right here and now - punishing the fraudsters across the board and clamping down on all manner of fraud in the future with enforcement of the law both looking back and forward being the primary driver of policy.
  2. Accept that we will have an economic Depression worse than the 1930s, as the continued absence of private credit provision will guarantee a contraction in GDP of at least 30%. This will result in the bankruptcy of about 20% of the S&P 500, 25-30% unemployment, half of all private businesses in the United States going under and general economic malaise at least equivalent to the 1930s and quite possibly far worse.

Those are the only choices ladies and gentlemen. All the handwaving in the world will not convince private capital to come back and you cannot force that private capital to return.

We can only convince private capital to return by guaranteeing that the rule of law will be upheld, that those who screwed them this time will be punished in accordance with the law and that anyone who attempts to screw them in the future will be immediately dealt with under the same provisions.

Those are the choices folks, and if we do not accept this and adopt it as policy within a very short period of time the economic contraction will continue and, once it reaches a critical point, the collapse in the equity and credit markets will accelerate and be impossible to stop until liquidation has run its course.

We are very close to reaching that tipping point and the reaction today in the markets, after being filled with "hope" yesterday, is a direct consequence of the administration's failure to follow through with concrete steps to restore trust, transparency, and the rule of law.

Until and unless you hear that message come out of Washington DC your wisest course of action is to be prepared for economic conditions at least as bad as those during the 1930s, because unless policy changes that is exactly what we are going to get.

The math is never wrong.

Monday, February 23, 2009

What lies ahead is the accelerating exit of foreign investors from the US markets. That will be bad enough. But if what lies ahead dawns upon a growing number of Americans, and if they too all decide to exit in ever growing numbers, then there is no possible economic salvation for the USA in any form at all." —Bill Buckler

Ponder that for a moment...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Gravity Feed was in the house @ Cadillac 2nite!...
Great show!!!!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

From the Thursday night Jam @ Cadillac 2nite...

Consumers Cut Food Spending Sharply

Markets and Restaurants Feel the Pinch as People Purchase Generic Brands and Stay Home

The bad economy is hitting America right in the stomach.
Consumers have cut back sharply on food spending, shunning restaurants, opting for generic products over brand names, trading in lattes for home-brewed coffee and shopping for bargains. That is hurting sales and profits at many food processors, grocery chains and restaurants.

In 2008's fourth quarter, consumer spending on food fell at an inflation-adjusted 3.7% from the third quarter, according to data from the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis. That is the steepest decline in the 62 years the government has compiled the figure. The report is based on receipts from a sampling of food-oriented businesses across the country.
The big drop likely comes from two things, said Joseph Carson, an economist at AllianceBernstein who worked at the Commerce Department in the 1970s. First, consumers have been trading down to lower-priced items. Second, he thinks many households dug into their pantries for staples rather than going to the store, a trend that can't continue indefinitely. "You can't contract at this rate for long," he said. "It's just shocking."
Cindy Greco, a 45-year-old Chicago resident, said she's shopping more at Costco Wholesale Corp. stores and buying less expensive meat, such as chicken, shrimp and ground turkey, for her husband and 11-year-old daughter.
"I'm someone who used to never ever pay attention to the prices of groceries," Ms. Greco said while shopping Thursday at a Chicago supermarket. "But now it's a different story." She showed off a bottom round roast she had unearthed that was marked down to $7.21 from $18.26.
"In recent years, a lot of discretionary income has gone into buying fancier food, whether it's Starbucks coffee or prepared dinner or restaurant meals," said Barclays Capital economist Ethan Harris. Now, he said, that trend seems to be waning.
Last week, Kraft Foods Inc. lowered its earnings forecast for the year, saying customers are cutting back purchases of snack foods and trading down to private labels. Groupe Danone SA said this week that U.S. consumers sharply trimmed their purchases of yogurt and other dairy products at the end of last year.
Even makers of chocolates are worried about how well their products will sell for Valentine's Day on Saturday.
On Tuesday, Citi Investment Research warned of a "modern-day price war" based on Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s plan to freshen up its Great Value private-label foods and the analyst's expectation that it will trim national-brand prices. That could force grocery stores to cut prices to compete.
U.S. sales of private-label food rose 10% in 2008 from 2007, to $82.9 billion, according to a spokesman for the Private Label Manufacturers Association, citing Nielsen grocery-sales numbers. At the same time, branded food products saw sales rise 2.8% to $416.6 billion, he said.
When times get tough, restaurants are one of the first places where people economize. In its quarterly surveys, research firm WSL Strategic Retail of New York has found that more people are preparing food at home, eating at lower-priced restaurants when they do eat out and picking less pricey items from the menu.
"Food expenditures have dropped, but it's not because people have stopped eating," said WSL consultant Shilpa Rosenberry.
Declining sales at established locations have forced Starbucks Corp., Ruby Tuesday Inc. and other chains to shut hundreds of outlets and put many independent restaurants out of business.
On Wednesday, P.F. Chang's China Bistro Inc. said same-store sales fell 7.1% at its bistro locations in the fourth quarter, and the deterioration intensified as the quarter progressed. "The lights went out in December," Robert Vivian, the company's co-chief executive, told investors.
The shift has a silver lining for some companies. While supermarkets passed along last year's high ingredient costs to customers, McDonald's Corp. and other fast-food chains absorbed some of the expense and kept many items priced at $1. Now, some consumers consider a fast-food meal a bargain. On Monday, McDonald's said same-store sales rose 7.1% in January, including a 5.4% increase in the U.S.
Other consumers are opting for home cooking. In Bellevue, Neb., stock broker Kevin Vaughan and his wife cook chicken to make broth from scratch instead of buying it in cans, and use all of the resulting meat for multiple dishes.

"You'll have three or four meals off a $10 to $12 investment," he said. And there's another bonus from reduced food purchases, he added: less trash to take out.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Nicole Fournier was in the house @ Cadillac 2nite!!!
This woman can play and this woman can sing!!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bank of America’s Bernstein Says Bank Plan Won’t Work (Update2)

By Lynn Thomasson

Feb. 11 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Treasury’s bank-rescue plan won’t repair the financial system or revive credit markets, Bank of America Corp. strategist Richard Bernstein said as he recommended avoiding the industry’s shares.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner pledged up to $2 trillion in government financing yesterday for programs aimed at spurring new lending and addressing mortgage assets that are difficult to value. The government’s prior measures to prop up financial institutions included backing $118 billion of Bank of America’s assets and injecting $45 billion into the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank after it bought Merrill Lynch & Co.

“Financial stocks are likely to be as toxic to portfolio performance as banks’ assets are to their balance sheets,” New York-based Bernstein wrote in a research note. They plunged yesterday, driving the Standard & Poor’s 500 Financials Index to an 11 percent drop, on skepticism the rescue package will work.

Bernstein said the government should increase deposit insurance, seize assets, shut “large” banks and encourage takeovers.

“The history of bubbles clearly shows that the significant consolidation of the financial sector is inevitable,” the strategist wrote. “The latest Treasury program is simply another attempt to stymie the consolidation process.”

Financial shares in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index tumbled 57 percent last year, driving the benchmark index for U.S. stocks to the steepest annual retreat since 1937.

Lehman, Merrill Lynch

Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., once the nation’s fourth biggest securities firm, filed the largest U.S. bankruptcy in September after its shares lost almost all their value. Its rivals Merrill Lynch & Co. and Bear Stearns Cos. were forced into takeovers to avoid collapse, while Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley converted to bank holding companies as investors lost confidence in firms that depend on debt-market financing. American International Group Inc., Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were taken over by the U.S. government.

Bernstein’s new employer, Bank of America, has plunged 57 percent in 2009. He had worked for New York-based Merrill Lynch since 1988.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lynn Thomasson in New York at

Last Updated: February 11, 2009 16:23 EST

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Three Reasons the Stimulus Will Fail

The Administration and Congress have decided that a massive, debt financed, increase in government spending is correct public policy. This policy is marketed as a stimulus evoking the image of an after dinner restorative for a glutton. The stimulus will fail for 3 reasons that people in power today ignore but are surely not ignorant of since the current US regime assures us it is intelligent, well read, sophisticated, honest and hard working. We have their word for it.

The 3 reasons why the stimulus will fail in the US (as it will in the EU) are:

1. Foreigners will not bail us out

The US plans to issue trillions of dollars in new debt in the near to intermediate future. Americans either lack the resources or the appetite to buy much or even a majority of this debt. Foreigners are expected to be the principal source of financing.

The 5 largest holders of foreign reserves are, in descending order, China, Japan, Russia, Germany and Taiwan. Of these, Japan, Germany and Taiwan are nominal(but not reliable) allies while Russia and China are adversaries. China’s reserves are greater than those of the next 3 combined. For several years, these nations have been very large buyers of US treasuries, which financed US deficits and enabled both the government and scores of millions of consumers to live beyond incomes and earn beyond worth.

Foreigners have 3 reasons for investing in US government bonds and notes: national security (Japan and Germany in the 1970s and 1980s because the US protected them from the Soviet Empire and, until recently, Taiwan because the US protected it from China); market preservation (lend America the money to finance imports; as long as we over consumed, the rest of the world could enjoy export driven prosperity: our various domestic consumption and speculative bubbles became their export bubbles) and desperation (nowhere else big enough to park all the surplus dollars).

These reasons have now evaporated or are evaporating. Each of these 5 nations faces the same major economic problems, which are a squeeze on exports accompanied by contracting home markets. The problem is acute for Russia and Japan, becoming more serious for Germany and Taiwan and an increasing challenge for China which faces deep structural and demographic weaknesses that only high economic growth can disguise. Accelerating reverse internal migration in China and a crumbling real estate market suggest simultaneous unrest in both urban and rural communities lies ahead.

The response of each nation will be similar, which is to turn inward, use their financial surpluses to subsidize internal consumption and failing companies. Russia has experienced the most rapid depletion of foreign reserves in its modern history; if current, quite grim trends continue, Russia may be forced to be a net seller rather than a net buyer of US and EU government debt within 6 to 9 months; Japan’s exports have fallen faster than at any time since WW2 and China’s economic growth has now plunged below the worst case forecasts of its own government. Japan has admitted that it faces a long and deep recession and can do nothing to avert it, despite its elaborate stimulus plan. China concedes that its economic challenge is a test of the ability of the Communist Party to maintain its monopoly on power. Russia has failed in multiple efforts to defend the ruble and mitigate capital flight.

Foreigners, therefore, now have much less capacity to buy US treasuries than they did a year ago even as the US Treasury plans to issue vast amounts of new paper.

Moreover, most of the US debt held by foreigners has a maturity of under 3 years so there is an impending refinancing problem of monumental proportions for the US.

2. Confidence, not cash, is in short supply

The true currency of free and fair markets is confidence.The real currency of collectivism is coercion. Confidence has a higher multiplier than coercion. Confidence leads to enthusiastic innovation; coercion to sullen compliance. The value added to the economy from innovation far exceeds that from compliance. The current economic policy of the US is to replace confidence with coercion and staple this swap to an enormous increase in the supply of dollars that are backed by no assets at all.

Savers are told they can get no return on their funds and investors are told that bad investments will be salvaged while good investments will be savaged; bad managements will be coddled while good managements will be pilloried; bad judgments will be rewarded while good judgments will be punished. In this environment, confidence in all the major institutions of the US government (except the military) is plummeting. Americans who still have both investable resources and common sense (maybe 10% of all adults in the US, if that) are driven to hoarding cash and avoiding entrepreneurial risk. A significant portion of these people, who are essential to any revival of market based innovation, growth and productivity increases, are even spurning US Treasury investments because they believe US government debt is the new big bubble. These people understand that every dollar the government spends on low value added mandated programs will be at the expense of a dollar of private spending on high value added projects and ideas. They know why North Korea is not the most prosperous nation in the world and why Venezuela and Iran are becoming poorer by the day.

The worldview of the current US government is that the cure for problems caused by overconsumption is more government subsidized consumption; the cure for excessive private debt is more public debt; the cure for private overinvestment in real estate is public overinvestment in real estate; the cure for undesirable autos made at shareholder expense is undesirable autos made at taxpayer expense. According to this governing philosophy, bad private decisions about resource allocation can be remedied by bad public decisions about resource allocation. This remarkable philosophy states that it is not the decision per se that creates problems but who makes the decision. This is change indeed.

Private investors facing the current reality, it seems, plan to go into “internal exile”, endure and wait out the US Government until, exhausted and defeated, it retreats in muttering confusion. Only then, as coercion retreats, will confidence advance. Unfortunately, a market adjustment that would have taken 18 to 24 months without coercion will perhaps end up taking 36 to 48 months with coercion.

A trillion dollars in federal spending will probably not even create a trillion dollars in net economic benefits given the high overhead associated with spending this money. A trillion dollars in tax cuts aimed at investors, risk takers, entrepreneurs (e.g in the form of a 5 year elimination of the capital gains tax) would probably lead to $5 to $10 trillion dollars in net economic benefits.

3. Assumptions are not truths

The stimulus plan is based on 5 assumptions. The world has an endless appetite for government debt; government directed infrastructure spending on small to medium sized projects that private investors shun is a sound economic idea; increasing taxes on high income families and investors has no influence on their behavior; a one time check for people who pay no taxes and are behind in utility, credit card, auto and medical bills will lead to sustained increases in consumer spending; feeding incompetent corporate managements while starving competent corporate managements will lead to vigorous job creation. In the past 50 years, governments all over the world have pursued these notions at various times. There is no instance of documented, enduring, success.

Since WW2, four factors have impelled US recovery from recessions. These are: inventory rebuilding by businesses, household spending, home construction and payroll growth. These factors are, in turn, based on rising business and household confidence and expanding profits or household asset values. None of these factors are present in the economy in early 2009. They will, of course, eventually return.

The tragedy of the stimulus plan that it will actually hinder these factors from operating, rather than encouraging them. At the end we will have lost two years and a trillion dollars in taxpayers money. Now this is not great in the life of our nation or compared to the long term wealth creating capacity of free men and women; but, for a family with no wage earners, for a young adult fresh out of college, for a small business with shrinking revenues and no political patron, and for an electorate that is both impatient and anxious, two years is a very long time indeed.

The kids were here for a short visit this last sure they were bored to death seein as how Kiran and I live such interesting lives...LOL...

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Colton O'Neill Project was playing at Cadillac 2nite...and these kids can play...

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

California goes broke, halts $3.5 billion in payments

02/02/2009 @ 10:47 pm

Filed by Stephen C. Webster

California, the eighth largest economy in the world, is broke.

"People are going to be hurt starting today," said Hallye Jordan, speaking on behalf of the state Controller. "There's no money."

Since state legislators failed to meet an end of January deadline on an agreement to make up for California's $40 billion budget gap, residents won't be getting their state tax rebates, scholarships to Cal Grant college will go unpaid, vendors invoices will remain uncollected and county social services will cease.

At least, temporarily. Services and payments will resume once state legislators come to an agreement on the budget.

"This time, there are real-world consequences," said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the California Department of Finance, in a report by KCRA in Sacramento. "Because we have not been able to get to a budget agreement, payments aren't going to be made."

"This is an issue of fairness," said Assemblyman Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, in the KCRA report. "It hurts hardworking families the most. Refunds, in fact, will stimulate the economy, and taxpayers need their money."

"Included are $515 million in payments to the state's vendors and $280 million to help people with developmental disabilities. Other public assistance agencies will be left waiting for hundreds of millions of dollars," reports CNN. "Other public assistance agencies will be left waiting for hundreds of millions of dollars."

"I see the will during the negotiations even though these are very, very tough things that we talk about, where we go into areas that we have never, ever dreamt of going into and trying to solve," said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. "So you will be very surprised when the whole thing is done. We're still not there yet. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done but we are moving slowly forward with this process."

"If there is no deal by Friday, state government workers will take their first furlough day," reports the San Diego Union Tribune. "Schwarzenegger has ordered state employees to take two days off a month without pay through June 2010 to save about $1.4 billion.

"'We're really hoping we can work out a compromise that helps the governor achieve the savings he wants while minimizing the disruption to state services and to the lives of the employees who provide the services,' said Jim Zamora, spokesman for the Service Employees International Union, Local 1000, which represents the state's largest employee union with 90,000 workers."

"Some 46 states face budget shortfalls, forcing them to slash funding for many services," reported CNN. "But California, the largest state in the union by population, faces a deficit that totals more than 35% of its general fund."

State lawmakers returned to the Capitol on Monday evening to continue budget negotiations.

Monday, February 02, 2009

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Dallas Federal Reserve President Richard Fisher warned on Monday against "Buy America" provisions in a proposed fiscal stimulus law and said it could lead to devastating protectionism.

"Protectionism is the crack cocaine of economics," Fisher told C-Span television in an interview for its "Washington Journal" program.

"It provides an immediate high that leads to economic death. We cannot afford to go down that route," said Fisher, who is not a voting member of the Fed's policy-setting committee this year.

President Barack Obama has proposed an $825 billion government spending package to end the country's yearlong recession, which is being debated by U.S. lawmakers.

In addition to avoiding language that will antagonize trade partners, Fisher also urged Congress to balance the immediate need to stimulate growth with the long-term consequences of piling on debt that could be a drag for years to come.

The Fed has cut interest rates almost to zero and taken other unorthodox steps to ease conditions in key credit markets and encourage borrowing and consumption.

To achieve this, it has pumped hundreds of billions of dollars into the financial system, more than doubling its balance sheet in the process, to almost $2 trillion.

Fisher said he supported the Fed's aggressive action but stressed it was crucial that the U.S. central bank have an exit strategy to prevent this massive build-up in liquidity from fueling inflation once U.S. growth recovers.

"The job of the Federal Reserve is to ... maintain price stability while we engender growth and employment in the United States," Fisher said.

(Reporting by Alister Bull; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Pension Tension



Just when it started to look as if The New York Times Co. had found a way to dig itself out from under its massive debt load, the beleaguered newspaper company may be on the verge of getting knocked down again.
The cash-strapped publisher last week reported that its pension plan was facing a $625 million shortfall at the end of 2008, compared with a deficit of $48 million a year earlier.

Without a significant recovery in the markets, the owner of the Gray Lady could be forced to sink in millions more to shore up the plan, starting in 2010.
The pension news gave investors another reason to fret about the Times' precarious financial position. And it pushed analysts like Citigroup's Catriona Fallon to further question the company's cash position.

More than $1 billion in debt is looming over the ad-starved company, which was forced to get a $250 million loan from Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim at a steep 14 percent interest rate, to put its stake in the Boston Red Sox up for sale and to negotiate the sale of part of its brand-new Eighth Avenue headquarters.
Now, the company is getting socked again by the financial crisis and subsequent market turmoil as it wreaks havoc on its pension plan. To be sure, the Times doesn't owe billions in retirement benefits like the Big Three automakers, but it's one of hundreds of US companies suffering from a severe pension squeeze.

According to Joe McDonald, a pension expert at consulting firm Hewitt Associates, the 500 companies in the S&P index started 2008 with a $29 billion surplus in their pension plans, but ended it with a $746 billion deficit. "Pension plans are invested heavily in the stock and bond markets, neither of which performed well in 2008," McDonald said.

The Times reported needing $1.6 billion to meet its pension obligations as of the end of 2007, according to public filings. At the time, the fund was short by only $48 million. Now the deficit has ballooned thirteen-fold to $625 million.
On a conference call with analysts, Times executives emphasized they won't have to deal with higher contributions until 2010, at which point the economy could start to recover.

Moreover, Chief Financial Officer James Follo suggested the government could offer legislative relief, such as allowing companies more time to replenish their pension funds.

"Quite frankly, I would be surprised if there wasn't some government intervention because I don't think this is a unique issue," he said.
Congress has already written some relief into the pension law passed in 2006, which included stricter rules for dealing with underfunded pensions.
Under those rules, if a company's pension plan falls below a certain funding level then the plan can be frozen, meaning the employees stop earning some or all of their benefits.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Pushrod was in the house 2nite!!!