Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Where do we really need the bailout? Hint: It is not the banks

All over the world $1.3T has been provided by governments to bolster the balance sheets of banks. Although this averts any immediate crisis by providing padding to the capital base of many of the most leveraged banks, it is a knee jerk reaction that does not address the root of the cause. It has been observed that the problem with banks is that the value of assets continues to go down in relation to leveraged balance sheets.

But if you gave the banks an infinite amount of money, would the issue be resolved? I contend no, because the real leverage is not tied to the lending institutions, but instead the consumers who provide the collateral to the transactions that the banks perform. The banks, for years, have tried to monetize the value of the undercapitalized consumer through interest rate hikes and extending the length of repayment. Now, with credit unavailable to finance these undercapitalized (regardless of credit rating) commitments long term, the banks are now starting to reflect the same financial situation that has been the case with the American consumer for years. Too many commitments served by way too little actual capital.

Thus before any type of resolution can occur in the credit markets, there will need to be a recapitalization of the American consumer. No more zero collateral purchases of cars, boats, homes, etc. A simple stimulus check providing $1200 is just one month worth of the payments that will need to be provided to float the American consumer. It will require at least 20 of these stimulus packages to get American family to stable balance sheet. What is the lesson in the temporary boost?

In conclusion, I approve of the use of $750B to recapitalize banks to avert an immediate destruction of the financial system. But I also approve a middle class tax cut bigger than what Obama is proposing and lots of personal bankruptcies as steps necessary for Americans to find their footing in a new, disciplined credit environment. The real "Bank of America", the wallets of the American consumer, will never truly be solvent until the people of America realize what fiscal solvency really requires.

1 comment:


Any bailouts are bad bailouts.