$29 Trillion

From the Levy Institute:

There have been a number of estimates of the total amount of funding provided by the Federal Reserve to bail out the financial system. For example, Bloomberg recently claimed that the cumulative commitment by the Fed (this includes asset purchases plus lending) was $7.77 trillion. As part of the Ford Foundation project “A Research and Policy Dialogue Project on Improving Governance of the Government Safety Net in Financial Crisis,” Nicola Matthews and James Felkerson have undertaken an examination of the data on the Fed’s bailout of the financial system — the most comprehensive investigation of the raw data to date. This working paper is the first in a series that will report the results of this investigation.

The extraordinary scope and magnitude of the recent financial crisis of 2007–09 required an extraordinary response by the Fed in the fulfillment of its lender-of-last-resort function. The purpose of this paper is to provide a descriptive account of the Fed’s response to the recent financial crisis. It begins with a brief summary of the methodology, then outlines the unconventional facilities and programs aimed at stabilizing the existing financial structure. The paper concludes with a summary of the scope and magnitude of the Fed’s crisis response. The bottom line: a Federal Reserve bailout commitment in excess of $29 trillion.

These bailouts saved a failed system. It allowed a broken system to stay broken, so it can break again another day. It saved broken companies, corporations and business models.

It did absolutely nothing whatever to address underlying systemic issues, like America’s oil addiction and systemic financial fragility.

Most disappointingly of all it sustained high systemic debt levels. Without liquidation of bad assets and bad debt capitalism stops working. An essential mechanism of capitalism is that new systems continually grow up to replace the old. That’s creative destruction. Without creative destruction, there is just stagnation.

In the eyes of the wider people, though, the greater trouble with these bailouts is their morality. If I leveraged all my assets, went to Vegas and lost it all playing blackjack, I wouldn’t get a bailout. That’s what the arbitrageurs of the international financial system did: they might have dressed up their addictions in the sophistry of mathematics, but the truth is it is all just gambling. Bailing out upper-echelon gamblers is just looting and pillaging the faith and credit of the world.

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Junkiefication

What does the market slump of the past couple of days show?

When the market prices in favourable government intervention (endless free cash), and the government doesn’t meet expectations the easy-credit junkies slouch into a stupor, suffering harsh withdrawal symptoms.

From BusinessWeek:

Goldman Sachs Asset Management Chairman Jim O’Neill said the global financial system risks repeating the crisis of 2008 if Europe’s debt crisis escalates and spreads to the U.S. banking industry.

“This is where the parallels with 2008 are relevant, even though I think they are being over exaggerated,” O’Neill said in an interview on CNBC today. “It was when the financial system really imploded that financial firms stopped extending credit to anybody that the corporate world had to destock and we know what happened after that. We are not far off the same sort of thing.”

More than $3.4 trillion has been erased from equity values this week, driving global stocks into a bear market, as the Federal Reserve’s new stimulus and a pledge by Group of 20 nations fails to ease concern the global economy is on the brink of another recession. O’Neill said the Fed’s plan to shift $400 billion of short-term debt into longer term Treasuries hasn’t convinced investors it will strengthen growth.

“The fear that it’s all dependent on the Fed, together with this mess in Europe, is really getting people more and more worried as this week comes to an end,” O’Neill said. “The markets have taken the latest FOMC move rather badly, which adds a whole new angle to it. It’s the first time since the global rally started in early 2009 that the markets have rejected a Fed easing.”

“As the problem in Europe spreads from Greece to more and more other countries and in particular Italy, the exposure that so many people bank-wise have to Italian debt means the systems can’t cope easily with that and it would spread way beyond Europe’s borders,” O’Neill said. “This is why the policy makers need to stop being so sleepy and get on and lead.”

Yes — of course — what the market junkies need is another hit, another tsunami of easy liquidity, money printing and endless “bold action”. Otherwise, the junkies would be left shivering in a corner, cold turkey.

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