Monday, January 14, 2008

When You Owe The Bank A Trillion Dollars And You're Broke...

...everybody has a problem.

Others have posted about this, e.g. Atrios, Calculated Risk, etc. You really ought to give this concept some of your time. It's all full of deja vu for regular MojoWire readers. The Murdoch Street Journal writes today:
The latest example: China's government has apparently squashed a multibillion-dollar investment in Citigroup Inc. by state-owned China Development Bank. The move suggests there is discord in Beijing over how best to deploy China's money pile. A few previous China investments like these have fared poorly so far financially.

The newfound assertiveness of these pools of government money -- known as sovereign-wealth funds -- is reinvigorating the debate over possible restrictions on the West, since its share of the world economy is shrinking, and with it, Western control over the ground rules of globalization.
Read that again.

The largest financial services company in America is so far in the freaking hole that it's A) slashing its dividend in half, B) laying off employees by the tens of thousands, C) probably writing down another $25B this quarter, and D) so strapped for capital that it's begging for bailouts from China and Abu Dhabi.

And the Chinese just said, "No thanks. We're Chinese."

Let's uncork the old soul gland for a moment, shall we? What might the American economy look like, particularly for ordinary working people, after our biggest banks and financial services companies are up to their eyeballs in debt to the sovereign wealth funds of foreign governments like China and— oh hell, let's just throw a dart at the map— Kuwait? What happens when the boards of directors of those institutions need to make decisions about how to handle the next major crisis these banks get themselves wrapped around and the 800 kg gorilla in the cotton suit at the end of the table says, "I don't care about your petty problems. I want to be made whole now please, or I will liquidate."

If you're thinking it will be your petty problems that get pushed to the bottom of the list, you're just starting to wake up. No, it will be America's economic royalists who will get thrown under the bus when the next crisis erupts. If that doesn't sound like a recipe for fun and exciting times, then you need to read more history.

Just saying.

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