At first die hard capitalists blamed the whole mess on the stupid people who took out loans that they couldn't repay. It turns out to be much more complicated than that. Unregulated banks with no oversight or controls are a much bigger part of the problem.
Excerpts from an opinion piece by Roger Cohen in the NYT follows.
I was talking to a banker friend, and he told me the “unraveling” could go on for ages. I thought he meant the unwinding of all the leverage that had inflated everything from the price of stocks to the price of homes.But, just to be sure, I asked him: “Unraveling of what?”
He paused, before saying, “Almost our way of life.”It’s now clear that our credit system the world over was rotten all the way through, a giant house of cards maintained by the ingenious connivance of banks, rating agencies and insurance companies in a monumental heist. The only buyers anyone trusts any more are governments.
But as the state intervenes, in what Ed Yardeni, an investment analyst, called “a giant global game of Whac-A-Mole,” the moles keep popping out of new black holes in our financial system.
The U.S. unemployment rate stands at 10 percent. Crime is up across the country. The economy is shrinking. No arm-twisting from the Treasury has managed to restore the broken confidence between borrowers and lenders. Banks, the few still standing, are holding fast to their cash. Property prices are down more than 25 percent from current levels.
The Dow is still heading south as people get used to the idea of stocks trading at no more than 10 times earnings, rather than the much higher ratios our former leveraged world delivered.
The deficit and national debt stand at unprecedented levels.
The hedge fund industry is decimated — its model of flipping cheap borrowings into leveraged bets around the world has blown up — and one desperate, even contrite, former master of the universe has just sold a Rauschenberg for $9 million less than he paid in 2004.
People still have way too much debt, and the collateral for it keeps evaporating. They are angry. Civil unrest is stirring.
On the bright side, gas prices are plunging. There’s a lot of money sitting on the sidelines in places like Dubai. And, as I mentioned, the dollar is up — more than 20 percent against sterling and the euro in the last three months.
In a way, what’s going on with the dollar is a measure of the extent of global desperation. Here’s a currency backed by debt so massive that it will presumably have to be inflated away some day — and it’s rocketing upward.
Op-Ed Columnist - The Widening Gyre - NYTimes.com
Are you frightened yet? I had hoped that the 'experts' would know what to do this time and that another great depression could be avoided. That hope is looking dimmer and dimmer. Save your Confederate money, boys. The South's going to rise again.