...a blog by Richard Flowers

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Day 2829: the Lesser of Two Evils? More like the Lesser of Two Eejits!


So, Mr Evan Davies gave a good SPANKING to both Chancellor Sooty and Master Gideon on the The Today Programme on the radio this morning.

Far be it for fluffy little me to think that Sooty's MYSTERIOUS unavailability to talk about the IMPLOSION of another British Bank until after 8am was some insanely inappropriate SPOILER TACTIC for Master Gideon's big interview, but… presumably the Labour were assuming that when Sooty INEVITABLY shot himself in the foot, he might wing Gideon at the same time.

As it was, Mr Evan played the "Vince Cable" card and trumped BOTH of them.

Anyway, they're both MORONS.

For a start, Sooty has decided to split up the assets and the liabilities of the Badly and Bungling Building Society Bank.

I have to admit that Daddy Richard is being driven slightly NUTTY by all the reporting of this: in the first place, they keep taking about the bank's "savings business" and it's "mortgage business" as if these are not the front and back end of the same PANTOMIME HORSE. You wouldn't say that Tesco has a "getting food from farmers" business and a "selling food to people" business, now would you?

Sooty has clearly encouraged them in this by treating the assets and liabilities separately. Which is why HE is an eejit. He's essentially left the bank with a whole load of loans to collect, but no savings end means no new business means, in the end, no bank. It's like cutting a WORM in HALF. You do NOT get two worms, you get one half of a dead worm and ANOTHER half of a dead worm. Eejit.

But then, the reporting keeps implying that it is the GOVERNMENT that is getting the bank's LIABILITIES – saying that the taxpayer will be "responsible for £41billion worth of mortgages" – while they are handing over the bank's £20 billion of deposits to the Spanish as if these are ASSETS.

Quite obviously, the mortgages that the government is keeping are the ASSETS (i.e. the mortgages are money that is OWED to the bank and represent a future cashflow INTO the treasury coffers). And what they are handing over are the LIABILITIES (i.e. the liability to repay all the deposits that the bank owes back to its savers).

Now, you would have to ask, why would anyone "buy" the exciting right to have to repay twenty billion bucks?

The answer is because Sooty is going to pay them twenty billion bucks to do so. (This is a win for the Spanish, because most banks will have debts way larger than what they have in READY CASH; so although their debt goes up, the cash they get in exchange is a much bigger proportion of what they had on hand. This is called "improving their gearing" by smart City types who talk JARGON to stop you understanding that they don't know what they're talking about.)

So it LOOKS like Sooty has just had all of us, the Great British public, settle ALL of Badly and Bungling's debts at a stroke. Except… EXCEPT… actually, what has happened is this: the bank went BUST so the brand new bank-insurance-against-going-bust scheme ought to kick in. Except, begin brand new, it hasn't had any time to accumulate reserves and so, ironically, if it paid out then it would, er, go bust. So Sooty has "loaned" the insurance scheme the money to pay out to the Spanish. It's fiendishly complicated, this.

So what we are left with is RISK – not a bill right now, but the RISK that those £41 billion worth of mortgages are not worth £41 billion pounds.

As Mr Dr Vince "the Power" Cable pointed out, there's always a chance that they might actually turn out to be a GOOD deal for the taxpayer; those mortgage assets could be worth a lot MORE than we're going to pay for them, assuming that most of the people who borrowed the money manage to keep up with their repayments.

Nationalisation is BAD because Governments are not very good at running businesses. Although it turns out that sometimes businesses are much, much WORSE at running businesses.

Accepting that it is only a LEAST WORST option, though, a temporary Government ownership can be a safe harbour whilst the tempest passes.

As with the Northern Rock-and-a-Hard-Place Bank – to which these mortgages will probably get added – if the government just holds onto them for a while until the economy starts to swing up again, they SHOULD be able to sell them for good value. After all, people are always going to need houses.

Master Gideon, of course, is against this. It's not JUST that he is in opposition, and so against what Sooty is doing just because. No, he thinks that the Badly and Bungling should be sold privately. This is because (a) obviously people are just gagging to buy a bank that the market has valued as worthless; and (b) clearly there are just so many banks out there flush with cash at the moment anyway…

Or maybe he's an eejit too.

Take his idea to have the Bank of England "step in" whenever they think that a bank's lending is getting a bit risky. Can you, in fact, think of a clearer signal that a bank is going down than that? The minute the Bank of England says ANYTHING, the City goes into headless-chicken mode, the share price flatlines and the bank is as dead as Master Gideon's fashion sense.

Then there’s his WHEEZE to FREEZE: celebrating the Conservatories policy of returning power to local councils by, er, imposing on them a centralised, Big Government decision overriding their power to choose the level of their own Council Tax. Behold the Joined-up-Government in waiting.

But as if that wasn't bad enough, he's now going round writing articlessaying:

"We can no longer afford an economy built on debt"

"An economy built on debt is not an economy built to last"

It sounds like a good sound-bite, doesn't it?

And yet, if you take him at his word, it betrays a FUNDAMENTAL and TOTAL lack of understanding about how capitalism works.

Everything, EVERYTHING about our economy depends on the idea of DEBT.

What is MONEY itself, but a "promise to pay"? It is a note of a DEBT owed, that we use in order to swap our debts about. Does Master Gideon expect us to go back to BARTER?

You work for a living? The boss OWES you a DEBT for every minute that you work. Yes, even when Googling on FaceSpace. You LEND him (or her) your services and that debt is settled at the end of the week or the month.

And who could possibly afford a house without using DEBT to match the payments for your home over your working life?

(Although, these day, practically nobody can afford a house anyway, and for that matter the banks seem to have given up lending.)

But at a higher level, debt is what makes INVESTMENT possible.

If you want to start a business you have EXACTLY two options: (A) be very rich; (B) borrow some money.

Responsible is a word that Mr Balloon suddenly likes. RESPONSIBLE lending means advancing money to people who are able to repay the debt AND make a bit on top.

This allows people who have got good ideas and hard work but NOT Mr Balloon's inherited fortune to set up in business. This is how ALMOST ALL the businesses in Great Britain start, businesses that make and sell things, that pay taxes and even grow to employ other people.

A responsible level of debt is exactly what we need. It is the GRIT in the capitalist OYSTER. It is the OIL that lubricates the GREAT MACHINE.

It is the very HEART of the Credit Crunch Crisis that we have gone from FAR TOO MUCH debt to ABSOLUTELY NONE AT ALL.

It's like going from a hundred-and-ten miles-an-hour on the motorway to nothing (and that is a good analogy because a hundred-and-ten miles-an-hour is irresponsibly out of control, and nothing will get you nowhere): the only way you can achieve this is with a NASTY CRUNCH.

Far be it for fluffy little me to remind everyone that Mr Dr Vince was saying for quite some time that we needed a careful and cautious but above all MANAGED reduction in overall borrowing to a RESPONSIBLE level… so I'll just remind you that Mr Evan told everyone that this morning.

1 comment:

BWilson said...

Millenium Elephant seems to hold similar economic opinions as myself and, perhaps, the same frustration that they are largely ignored. It would be a part explanation for the humour.