Warren Buffett has made a significant symbolic action in our economy. He has invested $5 billion into Goldman Sachs, the bank. Not the investment bank but the commercial bank that it has now become. The difference may sound small but it’s huge.
In doing this he has signaled his long-term belief that the American economy will weather this storm. Which few doubted. But this one act is hardly enough to resolve all the issues between now and his normal 5 – 7 year investment window.
Now I realize confidence needed to enter the markets. And the doubt of the bailout plan did not help anything. This is a great stabilizing factor. But the bailout plan is not a smart bet, and will not benefit the nation near-term.
The reality is that the Government wants to give Ben Bernanke $700 billion dollars to accept the bad debt of the financial markets. This is the same individual that failed to identify or resolve the problems in the financial markets that I saw back in January at least. And he is planning to accept every problem every size bank can shovel into this deal.
Have no doubt that every bank is working out how they can get their debt passed onto the taxpayers. These are individuals that were smart enough to create the derivatives that regulators are not smart enough to see as a problem for over 5 years. And suddenly we think that more regulation will prevent bad decisions and prevent being unable to understand what is happening in the markets.
The Government should not be in the business of owning banks. The Government is not smart enough, efficient enough, nor reactive enough. The Government is not able to take on debt at a realistic valuation since it does not understand the value, and thus every dollar spent on the bailout will be a waste. And the Government has never been able to intervene in the financial markets to the benefit the nation or investors.
I would bet that Warren Buffett was asked by the Government to step into the market. He is too strong a figurehead to be ignored, and thus symbolically stabilizes the markets. And the fact that Goldman had to become a less powerful commercial bank, and thus seek out deposits to shore up its bad books and loan reserves, to get the investment by Buffett is telling indeed.
The fact is that nothing will prevent the markets from going lower in the short-term. They need to. And if there is to be any real confidence we need to see other investors step up and make similar styled investments. I want to see the Blackstone Group, and Apollo Investments to make similar steps. Bill Gates too. But that is not happening yet.
The Government has been given time, to sort out what it will do. My advice would be to let the markets sort out the problem created in the markets and bad decisions. Because all a bailout does is tell the markets that the Government will step in every time they make an overly greedy decision. And if you think I am wrong, go back and look at what the auto industry is asking Congress right now.
But perhaps one of the worst things a bailout will signal is opening the floodgates on mortgages. If we bailout bad bets by financials, why not bailout the home owners that made bad decisions? And if we can help those home owners, how the hell can we not say that people like myself that made a smart decision on their loans deserve help too. Why should my taxes go to help pay a mortgage that is not my own? Especially since all those home owners had to do is read their documents and do the math.
The Government is not responsible for correcting the bad decisions those it governs makes. But in making the bailout a fact that is exactly what it is doing. And that is more than a small step towards a socialist government and away from a Democracy.
In the Star Wars movies there is a scene where it is said that
“This is how Democracy dies. With thunderous applause.”
But I believe that that is not the only way we can lose it. It can die with a funnel of money draining from the people. Not as dramatic or poetic, but perhaps far more effective and deceptive.