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Bill Gross, Nouriel Roubini, Laurence Kotlikoff, Steve Keen, Michel Chossudovsky and the Wall Street Journal all say that the U.S. economy is a giant Ponzi scheme.|
Virtually all independent economists and financial experts say that rampant fraud was largely responsible for the financial crisis. See this and this.
But many on Wall Street and in D.C. - and many investors - believe that we should just "go with the flow". They hope that we can restart our economy and make some more money if we just let things continue the way they are.
But the assumption that a system built on fraud can continue without crashing is false.
In fact, top economists and financial experts agree that - unless fraud is prosecuted - the economy cannot recover.
Fraud Leads to a Break Down in Trust and Instability in the Markets
As Alan Greenspan said recently:
Fraud creates very considerable instability in competitive markets. If you cannot trust your counterparties, it would not work
Similarly, leading economist Anna Schwartz - co-author of the leading book on the Great Depression with Milton Friedman - told the Wall Street journal in 2008:
"The Fed ... has gone about as if the problem is a shortage of liquidity. That is not the basic problem. The basic problem for the markets is that [uncertainty] that the balance sheets of financial firms are credible."
So even though the Fed has flooded the credit markets with cash, spreads haven't budged because banks don't know who is still solvent and who is not. This uncertainty, says Ms. Schwartz, is "the basic problem in the credit market. Lending freezes up when lenders are uncertain that would-be borrowers have the resources to repay them. So to assume that the whole problem is inadequate liquidity bypasses the real issue."
Today, the banks have a problem on the asset side of their ledgers -- "all these exotic securities that the market does not know how to value."
"Why are they 'toxic'?" Ms. Schwartz asks. "They're toxic because you cannot them, you don't know what they're worth, your balance sheet is not credible and the whole market freezes up. We don't know whom to lend to because we don't know who is sound. So if you could get rid of them, that would be an improvement."
And economics professor and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich wrote in 2008:
The underlying problem isn't a liquidity problem. As I've noted elsewhere, the problem is that lenders and investors don't trust they'll get their money back because no one trusts that the numbers that purport to value securities are anything but wishful thinking. The trouble, in a nutshell, is that the financial entrepreneurship of recent years -- the derivatives, credit default swaps, collateralized debt instruments, and so on -- has undermined all notion of true value.
Robert Shiller - one of the top housing experts in the United States - said recently that failing to address the legal issues will cause Americans to lose faith in business and the government:
Shiller said the danger of foreclosuregate -- the scandal in which it has come to light that the biggest banks have routinely mishandled homeownership documents, putting the legality of foreclosures and related sales in doubt -- is a replay of the 1930s, when Americans lost faith that institutions such as business and government were dealing fairly.
Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says about the failure to prosecute Wall Street fraud:
The legal system is supposed to be the codification of our norms and beliefs, things that we need to make our system work. If the legal system is seen as exploitative, then confidence in our whole system starts eroding. And that's really the problem that's going on.
I think we ought to go do what we did in the S&L [crisis] and actually put many of these guys in prison. Absolutely. These are not just white-collar crimes or little accidents. There were victims. That's the point. There were victims all over the world.
Economists focus on the whole notion of incentives. People have an incentive sometimes to behave badly, because they can make more money if they can cheat. If our economic system is going to work then we have to make sure that what they gain when they cheat is offset by a system of penalties.
Wall Street insider and New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin writes:
“They will pick on minor misdemeanors by individual market participants,” said David Einhorn, the hedge fund manager who was among the Cassandras before the financial crisis. To Mr. Einhorn, the government is “not willing to take on significant misbehavior by sizable” firms. “But since there have been almost no big prosecutions, there’s very little evidence that it has stopped bad actors from behaving badly.”
Fraud at big corporations surely dwarfs by orders of magnitude the shareholders’ losses of $8 billion that Mr. Holder highlighted. If the government spent half the time trying to ferret out fraud at major companies that it does tracking pump-and-dump schemes, we might have been able to stop the financial crisis, or at least we’d have a fighting chance at stopping the next one.
Economics professor James Galbraith says:
There will have to be full-scale investigation and cleaning up of the residue of that, before you can have, I think, a return of confidence in the financial sector. And that's a process which needs to get underway.
No wonder Galbraith says that economists should move into the background, and "criminologists to the forefront"
Failure to Stop Fraud and Prosecute Criminals Causes a Loss of Trust in Government, Which Makes Government Less Effective
As Shiller stated in the quote above, the failure of government officials to stop fraud and prosecute the financial fraudsters has caused a lack of trust in government itself.
Indeed, polls show that people no longer trust our economic "leaders". See this and this.
A psychologist wrote an essay published by the Wharton School of Business arguing that restoring trust is the key to recovery, and that trust cannot be restored until wrongdoers are held accountable:
According to David M. Sachs, a training and supervision analyst at the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia, the crisis today is not one of confidence, but one of trust. "Abusive financial practices were unchecked by personal moral controls that prohibit individual criminal behavior, as in the case of [Bernard] Madoff, and by complex financial manipulations, as in the case of AIG." The public, expecting to be protected from such abuse, has suffered a trauma of loss similar to that after 9/11. "Normal expectations of what is safe and dependable were abruptly shattered," Sachs noted. "As is typical of post-traumatic states, planning for the future could not be based on old assumptions about what is safe and what is dangerous. A radical reversal of how to be gratified occurred."