As for businesses, there was money available to buy corporations or real estate or whatever an inspired dealmaker wanted to buy. It was safe too — or so Wall Street claimed — because investors worldwide were buying U.S. financial products, thus spreading risk around the globe. Now, though, we're seeing the downside of this financial internationalization. Many of the mortgages and mortgage securities owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were bought by foreign central banks, which wanted to own dollar-based securities that carried slightly higher interest rates than boring old U.S. Treasury securities. A big reason the Fed and Treasury felt compelled to bail out Fannie and Freddie was the fear that if they didn't, foreigners wouldn't continue funding our trade and federal-budget deficits.
You've heard, of course, that subprime mortgages ("subprime" is Wall Street's euphemism for "junk") are where the problems started. That's true, but the problems have now spread way beyond them. Those predicting that the housing hiccup wouldn't be a big deal — what's a few hundred billion in crummy mortgage loans compared with a $13 trillion U.S. economy or a $54 trillion world economy? — failed to grasp that possibility. It turned out that Wall Street's greed — and by Wall Street, we mean the world of money and investments, not a geographic area in downtown Manhattan — was supplemented by ignorance. Folks in the world of finance created, bought, sold and traded securities that were too complex for them to fully understand. (Try analyzing a CDO-squared sometime. Good luck.)( Collapse )http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1842123-1,00.html
Sure'n it be the same merry song every time with the Wall Street buccaneers, me lads! They be livin' by the code of "Privatize the profits, socialize the losses!" If'n their sail gets torn, they steal another sail from someone else. And if'n they find all the booty, they don't be paying nobody for their aid, to be sure!