4 June 2008

20 reasons for scroomage due

2000: Fed governor warns Greenspan. Former Federal Reserve governor Ed Gramlich served 1997-2005. He was warning Alan Greenspan as early as 2000 about the coming subprime crisis. See his book "Subprime Mortgages: America's Latest Boom & Bust."
2004: Nixon's secretary of commerce. In "Running on Empty," Peter Peterson says: "This administration and the Republican Congress have presided over the biggest, most reckless deterioration of America's finances in history" creating a "bankrupt nation."
June 2005: The Economist. Cover story two years before collapse: "The worldwide rise in house prices is the biggest bubble in history. ... Rising property prices helped to prop up the world economy after the stock market bubble burst in 2000." Values increased 75% worldwide in five short years. "Never before have real house prices risen so fast, for so long, in so many countries ... This is the biggest bubble in history."
January 2006: Fortune. Interview with Richard Rainwater. "This is the first scenario I've seen where I question the survivability of mankind." He's 112th on the Forbes 400, worth $2.3 billion: "Most people invest and then sit around worrying what the next blowup will be. I do the opposite. I wait for the blowup, then invest." He waited with a half-billion-dollar war chest.
February 2006: Faber's Market Newsletter. "Correction Time is Here!" was Faber's headline: "If we combine the overbought condition of the stock market, investors' sentiment high optimism, equity mutual funds' low cash positions, and also heavy foreign buying, we have all the ingredients for a stock market correction in the US getting underway very shortly."
March 2006: Forbes. Economist Gary Shilling wrote: "The current housing weakness will develop into a full-scale rout ... It's clearly a bubble and is nationwide ... The house-price collapse will induce a painful recession that will send U.S. stocks into a tailspin ... China will suffer a hard landing ... and weakness in the U.S. and China will spread worldwide."
March 2006: "Sell Now." Former Goldman Sachs investment banker John Talbott's book: "Sell Now! The End of the Housing Bubble." His statistics covered America's top 130 metropolitan areas. The top 40 were facing an average 47.2% decline.
March 2006: Pimco Investment Outlook. In the quarterly newsletter, "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight," Pimco's boss Bill Gross took a big swipe at a presidential economic report: "It's not so much that the report was a compilation of untruths or even half-truths. It's just that it failed to tell the truth," and hid the fact that Washington's "borrowed from the future to pay for today's party."
March 2006: Buffett in Fortune. Remember Warren Buffett's famous farmer story: "Our country has been behaving like an extraordinarily rich family that possesses an immense farm. In order to consume 4% more than they produce -- that's the trade deficit -- we have, day by day, been both selling pieces of the farm and increasing the mortgage on what we still own."
May 2006: Harper's magazine. Michael Hudson wrote an article, "Guide to the Coming Real Estate Collapse," analyzing 20 trends: "Taken together, these factors will further shrink the 'real' economy, drive down those already declining real wages, and push our debt-ridden economy into Japan-style stagflation or worse."
August 2006: Wall Street Journal. Countrywide's CEO Angelo Mozilo: "I've never seen a 'soft-landing' in 53 years, so we have a ways to go before this levels out. I have to prepare the company for the worst that can happen." He did little. A year later, he was in full denial mode.
November 2006: Fortune. Cover story asks: "Can the Economy Survive the Housing Bust?" They said "the correlation between current builder confidence and future stock market returns over the past 10 years is downright unnerving." The NAHB confidence index is a leading indicator because the stock market inevitably follows in lockstep a year later. The index had "plummeted 54%."
November 2006: The Economist. In a cover story: "The Dark Side of Debt," Timothy Geithner, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said in a Hong Kong speech: "The same factors that have reduced the probability of future systemic events, however, may amplify the damage caused by, and complicate the management of, very severe financial shocks. The changes that have reduced the vulnerability of the system to smaller shocks may increase the severity of the larger ones." Geithner later negotiated the Bear Sterns collapse.
January 2007: Los Angeles Times. Schwab "averaged 242,300 trades a day the first nine months of 2006. That was up 29% from the same period a year earlier, and a click above its 242,000 peak in 2000"and the last collapse.
April 2007. GMO Quarterly Newsletter. GMO manages $145 billion. CEO Jeremy Grantham wrote: "The First Truly Global Bubble: From Indian antiquities to modern Chinese art; from land in Panama to Mayfair; from forestry, infrastructure, and the junkiest bonds to mundane blue chips; it's bubble time. ... Everyone, everywhere is reinforcing one another. ... The bursting of the bubble will be across all countries and all assets ... no similar global event has occurred before."
June 2007: Shilling's Insight Newsletter. "Just as the U.S. housing bubble is bursting, speculation elsewhere will come to a violent end if history is any guide. ... Richard Bookstaber, who designed various derivative-laden strategies over the years, now fears that financial derivatives and hedge funds, focal points of today's huge leverage, will trigger a financial meltdown."
June 2007: Pop! Then it happened! And Dan Gross had a well-timed book: "Pop! Why Bubbles are Great for the Economy." He says bubbles work miracles, so just let them pop, Pop, POP!
July 2007: Fortune. As the contagion spread, Treasury Secretary and former Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson tells Fortune "this is far and away the strongest global economy I've seen in my business lifetime." He's repeated the same remark often since. Earlier, he and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said the subprime crisis was "contained." Clueless, Bernanke assembled hedge fund managers, asking them to explain the global derivatives market.
August 2007. Wall Street Journal. Former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt wrote on the Journal's Op-Ed page: "In terms of market meltdowns and the degree of pain inflicted on the financial system, the subprime mortgage crisis has the potential to rival just about anything in recent financial history, from the savings and loan crisis of the late 1980s to the post-Enron turndown in the beginning of this decade."
August 2007: 60 Minutes. While Paulson and Bernanke were claiming the subprime crisis was "contained," the chief architect of the subprime-housing meltdown, Alan Greenspan, was on tour, making millions, hustling his new book, "The Age of Turbulence." On 60 Minutes he made a totally incredulous denial that he "really didn't get it until very late." He "didn't get it?" Yes, and to this day Greenspan rigidly maintains his blind faith in the free-market myth. His latest argument: Bubbles are a function of innovation, like the dot-coms and subprime derivatives. Regulators should trust the free markets, never micromanage innovation.
But what blinded Greenspan? His ideology? A brain quirk? Genetics? The president's reelection? It doesn't matter why: Whatever it was, it's bad news for America. Why? Because if the leader of America's monetary system for 18 years "doesn't get" that he was also the chief architect of the biggest economic blunder in American history since the 1929 Crash, can we ever trust any future leaders?
Scary, isn't it! How can we have faith in the next guy? Are our leaders the problem? Or is the system broken? Is capitalism itself at risk when the best and brightest are "blinded," unable to see disasters until it's too late?
But that is our "system," and in this system our leaders inevitably morph into bulls, ideologically blinded by their power. And like real bulls, all they see is red. So eventually ... they must run onto a sword, and self-destruct!

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