Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Citigroup should be getting split apart today, but it didn't because it was deemed too big to fail.
The $25b taxpayer handout proved insufficient to stem confidence among shareholders who tripped over each other to unload their stock last week. When Lehman Brothers were allowed to crumple, the damage gained force the further it spread from the host - such was the tangle of debt. But Citi crossed every country's border, dominating financial markets in everything; from student loans to credit cards, Mortgage Backed Securities, Collateral Debt Obligations, Hedge Funds and placed massive bets on Credit Default Swaps.
If Citi had gone down then more than $3 trillion dollars in paper assets would have been exposed as worthless, affecting every country in the G20. Too big for anyone but the Chinese to buy it out, it would have taken years to sell off the individual tentacles that made up this giant.
Of course it helped to have Robert E. Rubin on your Board of Directors. Rubin was Treasury Secretary under Clinton and has acted as the principal advisor to Barack Obama through his election campaign and with the transition team. His proteges will run the Treasury and Federal Reserve in the next administration. Rubin also chairs the Council on Foreign Relations.
TARP, Market chaos, Automakers and Hedge Fund Managers in front of Congressional committees, and Cabinet appointments have all captured our attention while a much bigger, more dangerous game is taking place behind closed doors in Washington and New York. The Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation have pledged a further $7.76 trillion dollars to guarantee corporate short-term paper and deposits. Not in the headlines is the $139 billion in loan guarantees for General Electric (no wonder their stock went up) . Not in the headlines is a further $200 billion for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
The total amount of bailouts from all Agencies would run New Zealand for 100 years or pay off half the mortgages in the United States. Incredible.
So as the United States commits the equivalent of half its GDP to saving the finance industry, the question has to be asked: Is the United States too big to fail?
Posted by Takwira at 9:34 PM