"why No Outrage?"

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THE SPINE JULY 20, 2008

"why No Outrage?"

James Grant is about as serious and as honest a financial
commentator as there is on the American scene. His Grant's Interest
Rate Observer, not a publication written for just plain you and me, is
read by just about everybody I take seriously on Wall Street. He is a
free marketeer not a government interventionist. But he does wonder
why the politicians and the newspapers and the public have been so quiescent
in the wake of what he sees as a true economic calamity--one that is far
from over.

In a nutshell, "America's
21st century financial victims make no protest against the Federal
Reserve's policy of showering dollars on the people who would seem to need
them least." In a long article in the weekend Wall Street
Journal, “Why No Outrage,” makes
the argument that there plenty to be outraged about. "Have we, too,
not suffered at the hands of what used to be called The Interests? Have the
stewards of other people's money not made a hash of high finance? Did they
not enrich themselves in boom times, only to pass the cup to us, the
taxpayers, in the bust? Where is the people's wrath?” This is not
usual WSJ lingo.

"Now began one of the wildest chapters in the history of lending and borrowing.
In flush times, our financiers seemingly compete to do the craziest
deal. They borrow to the eyes and pay themselves lordly 
bonuses.  Naturally--eventually--they drive themselves, and the economy
into a crisis. And to the scene of this inevitable accident rush the
government's first responders--the Fed, the Treasury, or the government-sponsored
enterprises--bearing the people's money. One might suppose that such a
recurrent chain of blunders would gall a politically potent segment of the
population. That it has evidently failed to do so in 2008 may be the
only unreported fact of this otherwise compulsively documented election
season."

Here is Grant's devastating "catalogue of the misdeeds of 21st
century Wall Street: the willful pretended ignorance over the triple-A
ratings lavished on the flimsy contraptions of structured mortgage
finance: the subsequent foreclosure blight; the refusal of Wall Street to
honor its implied obligations to the holders of hundreds of billions
of dollars worth of auction-rate securities, the auctions of which
have stopped in their tracks; the government's attempt to prohibit
short sales of the guilty institutions; and--not least--Wall Street's reckless
love affair with heavy borrowing."

Yes, remember, this James Grant in The Wall Street Journal.

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