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29 Oct, 2008 14:12

Crisis myths damn the bailout

Crisis myths damn the bailout

Researchers at the one of the 12 Federal Reserve banks, Minneapolis, have challenged U.S. authorities to publish the data which justifies the multi-billion-dollar bank bailout.

In Facts and Myths about the Financial Crisis of 2008 they say the commercial banking sector is not as vulnerable as U.S. authorities would have us believe.

Put simply, while investment banking has collapsed, U.S. retail banks are ready and willing to lend. They also argue that the banking sector as a whole is less important to the economy than is generally assumed. Remember, the research refers to the U.S. economy.

If correct, these allegations are dynamite. They question the motives of the U.S. authorities in diverting huge sums of taxpayers’ money to rescue the U.S. investment banks.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson was the head of Goldman Sachs during the period the bank helped build the financial crisis.

If correct, it means it's not the banking crisis that threatens to bring down the global economy. That threat comes from the policy response and the sheer cost of the bailout. That would take the bailout fraud to a new and astonishing level.

Before dismissing the research as flawed, this is what James Chessen, the Chief Economist at the American Bankers’ Association, told the magazine American Banker: The study “confirms what a lot of healthy banks have been saying – that they have the capital and resources to continue making loans.”

Read more here

Skip the technical bit if you wish. The paper examines four claims about the banking crisis:

Claim 1. Bank lending to non-financial corporations and individuals has declined sharply.

New research: U.S. bank credit has not declined during the financial crisis and even rose in September.

Claim 2. Interbank lending is essentially non-existent.

New research: Interbank lending is healthy and has not fallen sharply.

Claim 3. Bond issue by non-financial corporations has declined sharply, and rates have risen to unprecedented levels.

New research: Commercial paper issue by the non-financial sector is unchanged.

Claim 4. Banks play a large role in channelling funds from savers to borrowers.

New research: 80 per cent of non-financial company borrowing through bond issue takes place outside the banking sector. “The claim that disruptions to the banking system necessarily destroy the ability of non-financial businesses to borrow from households is highly questionable.”

The researchers don't doubt the U.S. is undergoing a financial crisis and may face recession. However, they say no one has proved the strains on non-financial institutions are anything more than the effect of recession.

The conclusion is damning: Publicly available data does not justify the bank bailout. If the U.S. administration has different data “responsible policymaking requires that they share both the data and the analysis that underlies the need for bold policy with the public.”

One of the researchers, Patrick Kehoe told American Banker, there should be “more of a spirit of caution and a need for better data analysis before we spend nearly a trillion dollars.”

Where does this leave emerging markets like Russia? As I argued here the collapse of investment banks in turn forced many hedge funds to unwind their trades. The flow of U.S. dollars back home to America has hugely destabilised the rest of the world.

However, the banking bailout will not stop that – and it is sucking huge amounts of money from the real economy.

Banks and companies most certainly are short of dollars in the emerging economies, where hedge funds were most active.

The bank bailout could be much worse than a fraud. It could be a betrayal of the world.

Facts and Myths about the Financial Crisis of 2008

Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Research Department

Mark Gay, RT