Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Latest Washington Free Lunches

The 'Helicopter Economics Investing Guide' is meant to help educate people on how to make profitable investing choices in the current economic environment. In addition to the term helicopter economics, we have also coined the term, helicopternomics, to describe the current monetary and fiscal policies of the U.S. government and to update the old-fashioned term wheelbarrow economics.

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The U.S. stock market rally continued yesterday, with metals, steels and other infrastructure plays frequently having double digit rallies from usually extreme oversold conditions. What set off the rally was president-elect Obama's announcement over the weekend of the largest infrastructure-spending package since the 1950s to stimulate the U.S economy. The plan to upgrade America's deteriorating bridges and roads, increase energy efficiency in buildings, computerize health records, and increase use of broadband is certainly laudable and economically constructive unlike the visionless money-wasting programs of the historically incompetent Bush administration. While this lunch may be a lot tastier than what has been dished out in the last 8 years, the bill is still going to have to be paid one way or the other however.

An examination of the federal government's record so far in handling the housing crisis (which I would like to remind you that it helped to create and encourage) indicates that government action in that arena has so far been ineffective. Before the credit crisis U.S. foreclosures were running around a million a year. It looks like they will be about 2.25 million this year even after several government programs were instituted to limit the problem. A study just released by the Comptroller of the Currency indicates that over half of borrowers risk losing their homes again only six months after their loans have been renegotiated to lower monthly payments. Even worse, the government through the FHA is once again encouraging lenders to provide these same type of 'bound to default no matter what' loans. A recent Business Week cover story, "Subprime Wolves are Back" reveals that the FHA is supporting 100% insured loans (the government picks up the tab when they go bad) through mortgage lenders with spotty and even criminal records.

Meanwhile the Auto bailout proceeds in Washington. The current figure being discussed is $15 billion, which should stave off bankruptcy for the big three until sometime in the Spring of 2009. After that of course, another bailout will be needed and probably another and even another as well. The idea of a Car Czar is catching on adding another bureaucratic layer to an industry that is drowning because of its own bureaucratic sludge. Expect the auto bailout figures to rise next year, just as the banking/broker bailouts will. Add these figures to the up to one trillion dollars in the Obama proposed infrastructure spending - or at least that's the initial figure (pick whatever multiple you like to come up with the actual one).

It is my belief that all of these government programs and the ones that follow will indeed save the economy and once again make it robust, at least for awhile. It is not possible to spend almost unlimited amounts of money without causing inflation. When the spending is coming from essentially printing the money being spent, you can add major currency devaluation and the possibility of hyperinflation. Yes, we will get out of the frying pan, but we will wind up in the fire.

NEXT: China's Trade Gap and the Global Economic Future

Daryl Montgomery
Organizer,New York Investing meetup

This posting is editorial opinion. Like all other postings for this blog, there is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security.

1 comment:


Washington has gone to the dogs.