With stocks plummeting across the world, the White House has decided its time to send George Bush out to give us a pep talk. I doubt he will tell us to stop whining, but the guy who was a cheerleader at Andover must be pretty pissed off that he has to end his Presidency in the same stupid business.
It doesn’t really matter what he says, because the U.S. economic freefall is not something he can do anything about. Take the dollar. British governments bonds are yielding 5% (Euro Bonds 4.5%) while U.S. Treasuries yield 2%. This simple fact is why the dollar is in freefall and oil costs us more everyday. In his congressional testimony this morning, Fed Chairman Bernanke talked about the banks need to rebuild capital, but as Bloomberg pointed out yesterday, even the biggest banks are in far more trouble than their balance sheets would indicate.
At an investor presentation in May, Citigroup Inc. Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit said shrinking the bank’s $2.2 trillion balance sheet, the biggest in the U.S., was a cornerstone of his turnaround plan.
Nowhere mentioned in the accompanying 66-page handout were the additional $1.1 trillion of assets that New York-based Citigroup keeps off its books: trusts to sell mortgage-backed securities, financing vehicles to issue short-term debt and collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs, to repackage bonds.
Way back in January we warned about the Shadow Banking System , the $500 Trillion of off balance sheet derivatives that would come to haunt America. When this slow-motion crash is all over and the genius quants and hedge fund wizards have taken early retirement in their Greenwich mansions some brave soul in Congress will call a 21st Century version of the Pecora Commission and these Masters of The Universe will have to tell under oath the rationale behind the debt addled insanity that brought us here. And though Republicans like Phil Gramm, Wendy Gramm, David Stockman and James Baker will be in that rogue’s gallery, we must also include Democrats like Robert Rubin and Sandy Weill who pushed through banking deregulation. This house of cards was a bi-partisan project.