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Financial Alchemy by Ian R Thorpe.
For three decades it was alchemy. Banks and corporations pullede off the equivalent of turning lead to gold by turning liabilities to assets and then using those very dodgy assets to secure loans. It could not last of course, sooner or later someone was bound to work out how the illusion of turning debt to wealth was performed. Find out how here...

Financial Alchemy
by Ian R Thorpe.
2011-01-17
CREATIVE COMMONS: Attribute, non commercial, no derivs.
KEYWORDS: economics, economy, economists, politics, politicians, left, coalition, labour, conservative, banks, bankers, corporate, business, interest, debt, credit, crash, crisis

The phrase "credit crunch" ought to be self-explanatory, "Credit crash" however conjures a yet more graphic illustration of the state of affairs in the global economy. What should concern us given there is a mountain of evidence to back up these phrases is that there is so little political will to understand quite what went wrong in the global markets over the years leading up to an off-the-Richter-scale moneyquake that has since 2008 redefined the state of western society. The democratic world became addicted to the notion that the creation of debt – any old debt, not just, or even, boring, sound investment – was the creation of wealth. While we ordinary punters have gone cold turkey, paying down credit card balances, cutting back on spending, turning down the heating thermostat and wearing an extra sweater, governments are still hooked on spending money they do not have. The Obama administration is leading the world's biggest economy to ruin. The UK's governing coalition is at it with their student loans policy, merrily lending money to individuals, instead of investing it in the institutions that educate them, because in the future – the government hope – the Treasury will get their money back with interest. The problem the government have with student loans for Higher Education is during thirteen years of Labour's mismanagement of everything Higher Education was made into a sacred cow. New Universities were opened left, right and centre and the numbers of places available on degree courses in soft subjects increased exponentially. Thus the UK now has lots of people with degrees in media studies, journalism or drama and dance earning a meagre living as burger flippers and shelf stackers while employers recruit plumbers, electricians, mechanics and carpenters from among recently arrived immigrants. This has little or nothing to do with reducing the deficit now. The institutions get their money all the same, even though the risk being taken in lending it for interest rather than investing it for future boffinry remains with the government. All the institutions have to do is attract lots of students, in a "competitive market", and charge them as much as they can get away with, up to that £9,000 a year. The only difference is instead of going directly to Universities the money goes to the students in the form of a loan. Getting a degree will be like getting a mortgage. Safe as houses. Safe as countries that thought houses were a safe investment, countries such as Ireland, the USA and our own. Ireland, supposedly the beneficiary of a "bail out" by its generous European neighbours, it is actually being allowed to borrow money that it will be expected to pay back with interest sometime. As the Irish government got into trouble because it could not afford to pay the interest on what it had already borrowed, what chance is there of the bail out loans being repaid. So the bail out of Ireland and the one that saved Greece from total economic collapse and the ones currently being arranged for Portugal and Spain are more fine investments for the future. The justification for this profligacy clearly resides in the fact that Irish default would leave European banks exposed to Irish debt to the tune of £650bn, the UK and Germany featuring large in the reckoning. Well worth putting that off until the upswing comes, and the bailed-out banks can be sold again, at a profit. The fabled upswing. The recovery that borrowing for investment (stimulus) was going to produce. Fortunately our government, having learned on assuming power that Britain was just a few weeks away from having the International Monetary Fund step in to prevent the collapse of our economy (as it had done at the end of Labour's two previous periods in government, is doing the opposite, and "reducing the deficit". Though the public spending cuts are causing much wailing and gnashing of teeth among supporters of the spendthrift left who always seem to labour under the misapprehension that when governments run short of money all they have to do is print some more, deficit reduction was unavoidable and urgent. Over and over again people who delude themselves they are intelligent repeat that the deficit was created by the bailing out of the banks. WRONG!. The money spent on bailing out the banks is part of the UK national debt, the money the government owes the people – somewhere around £350tn. The deficit is the gap between what the government is spending each year and what it is earning. This is currently nearly £110bn, money that has to be borrowed at interest each year unless it is made to go away through a mix of cuts and tax increases. The way governments raise this money is by selling bonds. Many people would prefer to shift the emphasis to increasing tax revenues, even though Britain boasts no fewer than 30 million taxpayers, all handing over more than half their income in direct or indirect tax already. Sure, tax avoidance is an issue, but one that is difficult to solve without the unlikely advent of global governance and the abolition of currency in favour of electronic transactions for even the smallest purchases. Think of the implications of that and anyone who lives in the real world will understand why it is not going to happen any time soon. A surprisingly large number of people believe there is a yet more simple solution. Money must be wrung out of the very wealthy, who have multiplied their wealth so much in the last 30 years, in some other way. One suggested solution that showed an infantile failure to understand money was to clamp down on offshore tax havens. Unfortunately offshore tax havens though they are often tiny islands are sovereign nations. Heads of greedy, spendthrift administrations in large powerful states cannot just go sending in troops to tell these tiny sovereign nations (or autonomous provinces in the case of Hong Kong) how to order their affairs. If they did it might turn out that other large powerful nations find it suits them very well to have a tax haven just off their coast. Another way to squeeze the rich that has been suggested is asset taxes. Much of the wealth the left complains 'the evil rich' are not paying tax on is money is tied up in assets – property, pieces of art, antiques, jewellery, classic cars, stocks and shares. It is surprising how little liquid cash rich people have. Now the deluded left might have no difficulty believing that every rich person is sitting in their castle or fortified manor house, musket across their knees, pistols at their side and the hilt of a duelling sabre in their hand, waiting to repel the Revenue Men in tricorn hats who could burst in at any moment to seize the sack of gold doubloons on which all rich people habitually sit of an evening. It is not so of course, though the left love to talk of fairness but cannot see how it is unfair to tax the notional value of assets that have been bought with money on which tax has already ben paid, assets that are not earning income and may just as easily depreciate in value as appreciate. Could governments relieve the wealthy of these assets, confiscate them to be sold so their cash value can be realised? Just think that through. The first few, or few hundred sequestrations might raise moderately good sums but once it was seen the market was glutted with expensive houses, fancy cars, antiques etc. there would be few sales and revenue from those would be far below expectations. Many of these assets, like the houses people saw soar in "value", in the bubble economy would turn out to be of less value once they were on the market in quantity. That's bubbles for you.So 'squeezing the rich' So how do we finance restarting the stricken economies of the west. All the chatter on the left about shutting down the tax havens, squeezing the rich and borrowing to invest is big talk, but sounds rather silly coming as it does from small, envious people. In his book Beyond the Crash, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown talks of the economic crisis becoming visible when the dancing stopped. The dancing hasn't stopped yet, though it has settled into more of a They Shoot Horses, Don't They? shuffle. There is plenty more "deleveraging" to be done in the big consumer economies, and the wealthy will be, as ever, last in the queue for pain. So how do we start to tackle the problems which in fact are getting bigger rather than smaller. It would help if people, particularly leaders would be a bit more political and less ideological. For 30 years, government in many western nations (the UK in particular) has fled from infrastructural investment, waiting patiently for the market to provide. But the market has not provided a decent transport infrastructure, for example. Now investment in our railways will be provided by the poor sods having to pay exorbitant prices to commute on the dirty, unreliable local trains that shuttle workers to and from the cities each day. About the only reason so many people use trains to get to and from work is the urban and arterial roads are gridlocked. For the future we should be aiming to make commuting a cheap and pleasant experience so people currently using their cars. Whatever one's position on climate change, oil is not going to get any cheaper as competition for supplies from the huge populations of India, China, Indonesia, South East Asia and the rest of the developing world increases so an infrastructure investment in useable public transport would benefit society in generally by making life less stressful and the business community by increasing productivity (contented workers work harder and take less time off for sickness.) In education, after three decades of waiting around for the promised market solutions, there will now be more waiting for more market solutions. Labour's plans for state funded schools to be run as businesses, competing to attract pupils in the way universities have to compete to attract students crashed and burned before it go off the ground. The Coalition's academies programme, like Labour's, is about rewarding ideologically compliant with more money. Thus under the Coalition's education regime targets and statistics would still count for more than the actual quality of the product being delivered. Coaching to test will continue take precedence over educating for life. Labour were always quick to remind us investment in education has been increasing for years. Recently the Programme for International Student Assessment revealed that Britain has slipped from fourth in science, seventh in reading and eighth in maths in 2000, to 15th in science, 25th in reading and 28th in maths. Britain is "stagnating" while other countries are improving. Surely Estonia is not spending more on education than Britain is? The left's naive belief that the more money spent on the education system the better the education is undermined by complaints from employers hiring school leavers and recently from University administrators that school leavers with excellent paper qualifications are in need of remedial education in basic numeracy, reading and writing. Where will money for all this much needed investment be found? Ireland, Portugal, Greece? Student loan recovery? The sale of banks whose assets consist of overpriced homes and the mortgage payments they can wring from their deeply indebted owner-tenants, as long as they can stave off a price collapse. The economies of the west have run for decades on a kind of alchemy, not turning lead into gold but turning liabilities into assets. The culprits are not the general population who were encouraged to abandon prudence and caution in favour of being part of a global economy based on perpetual growth in a world of finite resources through the inifinite inflation of asset values, not with the banks because they were handed an opportunity by the economic alchemists, but government, big, centralising governments. It was madness, hubris. And as always hubris, contempt of the gods, leads to the most spectacular crash. Ask Icarus if you do not believe me. RELATED POSTS:

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Even The BIS Is Shocked At How Broken Markets Have Become.
If the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) the bank where banks and governments do business is worried about the state of the markets, we are in bigger trouble than anyone is letting on.

Child sex abuse inquiry in crisis as victims walk away
Alleged victims of abuse involved in the historic abuse case currently being investigated by MPs and police have advised Home Secretary Theresa May, that they are ready to withdraw support from the Government's child sex inquiry. Twenty = three individuals, some of whom claim as children they suffered serious and prolonged abuse at the hands on senior Members of Parliament, Senior Civil servants and other high ranking figures in the public sector, sent Mrs May a letter claiming the inquiry is "not fit for purpose".

Obesity pill to ‘replace treadmill’ being developed by Harvard University
A magic pill which burns away excess body fat has been one of the wet dreams of mad scientists for decades. Such a pill is now being developed at Harvard University. Researchers claim it could one ‘replace the treadmill.’ (This is daft as we still need exercise to maintain a healthy heart, muscles and bones.

Everything The Science Whores Told You About Eating Fat Was A Lie.
We have been telling you so for years, but at last the world seems to be cathing up with The Daily Stirrer. Another independent study confirms that the scientists ('A sack of rogues bought and paid for with corporate gods' to paraphrase Burns) have been lying about the health risks of eating saturated fat. It's process vegetable fat, created in laboratories by scientists and other synthesized foods that damage human health.

What Would George Orwell Think Of The Screeching Left's Horror At Plans To Shrink The State. In part one of his classic social commentary, The Road To Wigan Pier, George Orwell wrote of the grinding poverty and appalling living conditions endured by people in industrial areas. The second part, which is more revevant to the 21st Century is a rant against the superiority of the upper class 'Fabian' socialists who have hijacked the Labour movement and whose Paternal Liberalism is in almost all ways more repugnant that the uncaring attitude of the old elite.

What Will It Take to Get You to Swallow GMO and Nanotech Foods?

Are you one of these "new technology rejecters"? Apparently you will be given such a label soon if you don't want GMOs or nanoparticles in your food, just as those who ask can the 1.6% contributed by human activity of the carbon dioxide that makes up 0.025% of the atmosphere really be the sole cause of the changes in our climate which has been constantly changing for millions of years before men first stood erect.

Evolution: Theory, Fact or Fiasco?
Much as I have faith in Charles Darwin's Theory Of Evolution as a feasible explanation of how diverse species originate (The Origin Of The Species) it annoys me when science fans insist "Evolution is not a theory, its a fact." Especially annoying of course is when they cite evolution to explain the origin of life on earth or the development of human intelligence. Even more annoying is their assumption that anyone questioning them is a young Earth creationist. Here are a few thoughts on some of evolution theory's inconsistencies ...

Why Food Sovereignty Should Not Be Handed To GMO Biotech Corporations
Most of the GM produce that is finding its way into the human food chain has been modified to make it resistant to herbicides (weed killer) and pesticides (insect killer) that are deadly to humans - just look at the warnings on a packet of garden weed killer or domestic fly spray if you want proof of that. And remember in bulk food production we are talking about industrial quantities of industrial strength toxins. Scientists on the corporate payroll assure us ...

Are Humans Becoming Extinct
some scientists, Guy McPherson included, down at the Climate Change conference who fear that climate disruption is so serious, with so many self-reinforcing feedback loops already in play, that humans are in the process of causing our own extinction.

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