Bailout Success!!

“I guess the bailouts are working…for Goldman Sachs!” The Daily Show With Jon Stewart

Goldman Sachs reported $3.4 billion second quarter earnings. Mises Economics Blogger Peter Klein says these earnings are the result of political capitalism – earned in the “nebulous world of public-private interactions.” Klein points to an interesting perspective offered by The Streetwise Professor (Craig Pirrong at University of Houston): Moral Hazard. Goldman Sachs’ status as “too big to fail,” conferred on them by the United States Government, has allowed them to increase the money they put at risk of loss in one day’s trading by 33 percent since last May. Goldman received $10 billion in the TARP bailout on October 28, 2008; they returned the money on June 9, 2009. By April 2009, they had paid about $149 million in dividends on the Treasury’s investment – a negligible return. Goldman Sachs also will be receiving transaction fees for managing Treasury programs under contracts awarded to them during the Bailout and beyond. When Goldman Sachs changed its status to “bank” last year they also gained access to the FDIC safety net, which perversely provides incentives for banks to take risks by absorbing the consequences of losses.

To underscore the importance of cronies in capitalism, Goldman Sachs is on track to dole out bonuses equal to about $700,000 per employee – a 17 percent increase over 2006, when bonuses were sufficient to “immunize 40,000 impoverished children for a year … throw a birthday party for your daughter and one million of her closest friends … and still have enough left over to buy a different color Rolls Royce for each day of the week.”

Since employees of Goldman Sachs will one day be in charge of the U.S. Treasury, it only makes sense that the company has to keep them happy now – how else can they be assured of future access to capital? The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee seems to think that former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson – himself a former Goldman Sachs bonus recipient – gave bailout money to his cronies after telling Congress the money was for Main Street homeowners.

If it isn’t clear by now that the United States Government is picking the winners and losers in this economy, the experience of CIT Group Inc. – a lender to small businesses that is being allowed to fail – should remove any doubts you may have had until now.

The United States Government passed an additional $12.1 billion to Goldman Sachs through the AIG bailout – money that won’t be returned unless AIG succeeds. To assure their success, AIG is preparing to pay millions of dollars more in bonuses to their executives this year under the premise that a contract is a contract and must be honored (unless it’s a UAW contract, of course.) JP Morgan Chase reported better than expected earnings; even Bank of America, still reeling from the Merrill Lynch merger and extensive mortgage losses in California, earned $3.2 billion in the second quarter of 2009. Citigroup reported $4.28 billion profit in the second quarter.

With government money and government protection coming at them from all sides, it’s a wonder all the big banks and big bank employees aren’t rolling in dollar bills by now.

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Matt Taibbi sees the same thing

Compare Taibbi's July 16 blog on Goldman Profits to this blog. His article is strictly about Goldman, vis a vis his recent article in Rolling Stone (The Great American Bubble Machine). But he points to the same sources for profitability: taxpayer money. My point is that Goldman isn't the only one taking profits from taxpayer dollars. Taibbi's point is that Goldman played too close a role in orchestrating the bailout.

Today, Special Inspector General for the bailout Neil Barofsky presented his quarterly report "Follow the Money" to Congress. He found "conflicts of interest, collusion and money laundering" in the programs. Stay tuned.