Thursday, December 17, 2009

U.S. Plays Shell Game with Bailout Money

The 'Helicopter Economics Investing Guide' is meant to help educate people on how to make profitable investing choices in the current economic environment. We have coined this term to describe the current monetary and fiscal policies of the U.S. government, which involve unprecedented money printing. This is the official blog of the New York Investing meetup.

Citibank is planning on paying back $20 billion of the $45 billion in TARP funds that it received last year. In exchange for the $20 billion in repayment, the U.S. government is giving it $38 billion in tax credits. So of course Citi is actually receiving an additional $18 billion in bailout money, but this is being delivered indirectly and not through an official bailout program. For once, and this happens only on the rarest of occasions, one of the U.S. governments behind the scenes funding scams has been revealed. Investors should assume that this is only the tip of a very huge iceberg that includes changes in accounting rules that have allowed the big banks to unjustifiably report rosy income numbers, off-balance sheet items in the federal budget, slight of hand reporting of who is actually buying U.S. treasuries, and doctored government economic statistics.

Citi's motivation for paying back the $20 billion of TARP funding is to remove executive pay limits imposed on TARP recipients. To make it happen, American taxpayers will have to pay higher taxes to make up for the lost $38 billion in government revenue and have less disposable income so rich Wall Street bankers can get higher salaries. The other $25 billion Citi received from the government doesn't count for the pay restrictions because it was converted to a 34% equity stake in the bank. Citi is a partially nationalized company. Citi is issuing new stock at $3.15 to pay off the $20 billion and this is therefore diluting the equity stake of existing shareholders. The stock offering was poorly received however. This is not surprising. What is surpising is that anyone would buy it. Citi traded as low as 97 cents last year, a price level the U.S. market reserves for impending bankruptcies.

The Federal Reserve said in its post-meeting statement on December 16th that it expects to wind down several emergency lending programs that are set to expire next year. TARP was supposed to expire this year, but it was extended another year when the time came. Even if the programs are closed down, the recent Citi incident indicates that the bailouts won't be reduced, but merely shifted elsewhere in the hopes of misleading the public about what is really going on.

Fed chair Bernanke said last month that " we'll be showing the taxpayers fairly significant extra income" when discussing the bailout programs (read that statement very carefully). What he meant was that money would be showing up on the Fed's books. He didn't claim that the taxpayers would be receiving those gains. It should be kept in mind that the Fed is only a quasi-governmental organization (claims that is completely private are overstatements). The Fed was funded by the big U.S. banks originally, who still hold stock in it and have seats on its regional boards of directors. These banks receive yearly dividend payments from the Fed for their investments. If the Fed is making money, the big banks will be the beneficiary, not the American public.

Bernanke failed to see the Credit Crisis coming and then when it blew up, he used it as an opportunity for a Fed power grab and a chance to loot the U.S. Treasury and transfer taxpayer money to Wall Street firms. This sterling record has caused Time Magazine to just name him person of the year. Bernanke joins previous illustrious winners, such as Adolf Hitler (1938) and Joseph Stalin (1939 and 1942). The notice of the award was conveniently released the day before the U.S. senate banking committee was to vote on Bernanke's reconfirmation. Bernanke was of course confirmed by the panel.

Disclosure: No positions in Citibank.

NEXT: Gold Rally Still Holding Up

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:


The us economy is one big shell game.