Financial Crisis

Libor: Is The City of London Fixed?

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Having worked inside banking, do I think that banks colluded to post an artificial London interbank offered rate, otherwise known as Libor? For those not in the brotherhood, that acronym is a compendium of average borrowing prices from sixteen large banks, pronounced either as lee-boar or lie-bore. Before turning to conspiracy theories, let’s review the facts of a scandal that began more than four years ago, and are so murky that I, for one — despite twenty-five years in international banking — have a hard time grasping.  read more »

Enjoying the Kool-Aid in Omaha

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I left Santa Monica for Omaha less than 3 months before the collapse of the global financial infrastructure in September 2008. The impending problems in housing and credit markets – obvious from early 2007 and exacerbated by the pile-on effect of derivatives gone wild – were increasingly in the bank of my mind. I made the decision to leave the dense urban population center of southern California and head to a place where —as recently described in an episode of The Walking Dead – there is a small population and lots of guns. I figured if the world was going to fall apart (something short of being over-run by zombies but worse than a minor recession) I’d rather not be sitting with my back to the ocean and no boat.  read more »

Commanding Bureaucracies & 'The New Normal'

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Prior to the fifteenth century, China led the world in technological sophistication. Then, it went into a period of long decline. Here’s what Gregory Clark had to say about it in Farewell to Alms:

... When Marco Polo visited China in the 1290s he found that the Chinese were far ahead of the Europeans in technical prowess. Their oceangoing junks, for example, were larger and stronger than European ships. In them the Chinese sailed as far as Africa.  read more »

The Next Public Debt Crisis Has Arrived

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In July of 2009, while the smoke from the global financial bonfire was still thick in the air, I wrote for this website about another crisis of massive proportions just looming on the horizon: the Global Crisis in Public Debt.  read more »

This Is America's Moment, If Washington Doesn't Blow It

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The vast majority of Americans believe the country is heading in the wrong direction, and, according to a 2011 Pew Survey, close to a majority feel that China has already surpassed the U.S. as an economic power.

These views echo those of the punditry, right and left, who see the U.S. on the road to inevitable decline.  Yet the reality is quite different. A confluence of largely unnoticed economic, demographic and political trends has put the U.S. in a far more favorable position than its rivals. Rather than the end of preeminence, America may well be entering  a renaissance.  read more »

Citibank, Citizen Wriston, And The Age of Greed

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Robert Sarnoff , the CEO of RCA before it was absorbed by GE, once said, “Finance is the passing of money from hand to hand until it disappears.” That process is very clearly defined in The Age of Greed by Jeffrey Madrick. It recounts, in concise terms, how a few dozen individuals—some in the private sector, some in government--brought us to our current economic pass, in which finance seems to have been completely detached from life. Names from the past come back, and their crimes are explained. Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken, and Dennis Levine look guiltier in the retelling than they did in the newspapers at the time. And in this telling, the philosopher king of the new finance was Walter Wriston, CEO of Citicorp.  read more »

The U.S. Needs to Look Inward to Solve Its Economy

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Over the past months as the global economy heads for another recession, U.S. lawmakers have done their best to deflect blame by focusing on various external forces including the most popular straw-man of the day: China’s currency.

Almost every year for the last few years, Congress and the White House have pressed China to revalue its currency, the renminbi. And every time this happens, China responds that it will do what it always does: let it appreciate gradually, at about 5% per year as it has done for the last several years.  read more »

Suppressing the News: The Real Cost of the Wall Street Bailout

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No one really knows what a politician will do once elected. George “No New Taxes” Bush (George I to us commoners) was neither the first nor will he be the last politician to lie to the public in order to get elected.  It takes increasing amounts of money to get elected. Total spending by Presidential candidates in 1988 was $210.7 million; in 2000 it was $343.1 million and in 2008, presidential candidates spent $1.3 billion.  read more »

Occupy Wall Street: About D@%& Time!

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"Privileged people don't march and protest; their world is safe and clean and governed by laws designed to keep them happy. I had never taken to the streets before; why bother? And for the first block or two I felt odd, walking in a mass of people, holding a stick with a placard..." Michael Brock in John Grisham's The Street Lawyer (Doubleday, 1998).  read more »

The Die-Hard Recession Heads Off The Charts

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"By 1970, the governments of the wealthy countries began to take it for granted that they had truly discovered the secret of cornucopia. Politicians of left and right alike believed that modern economic policy was able to keep economies expanding very fast -- and endlessly. That left only the congenial question of dividing up the new wealth that was being steadily generated."

Those words, from a Washington Post editorial more than twenty-five years ago, echoed the beliefs not only of  read more »