"The US government prefers that public money go not to the people but to big business. The result is a unique society in which we have free enterprise for the poor and socialism for the rich."
This insight has been impossible not to recollect this week following the nationalisation of American International Group, the world's biggest insurer, immediately following the dramatic rescue of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac housing companies and of the Bear Stearns bank.Robert Reich's described the process as 'socialised capitalism' . It has reached an astonishing new height with the announcement by the Fed, hurriedly backed by a thoroughly spooked Congress, and White House, that it would in effect underwrite the entire creaking US financial system to a tune of $1 trillion, thats a $1000 billion to you and me, courtesy of an increase in the US national debt, which of course is ultimately serviced by the US taxpayer.
"Gains privatised and losses socialised" was the more pointed comment by Nouriel Roubini Professor of economics at the Stern School in New York University. Professor Roubini is known in the economics trade as a "permabear" because of his repeated claims over the last six years that a financial system based on self-regulation, non-deposits, highly leveraged subprime housing debts and globalised derivatives trading was unsustainable and would collapse.
Roubini argues that the AIG should have been bankrupted rather than nationalised, and the $85 billion of taxpayers' money loaned to the firm could have been used instead for debtor-in-possession financing. This would have allowed for a more fair process for allocating losses between shareholders and short-term and long-term creditors of the firm. Nationalisations like this are prejudiced in favour of those responsible for the trouble in the first place.He is scathing about the Bush administration's actions. In RGE (Roubini Global Economics) Monitor, he wrote: "Fanatic zealots of any religion are always pests that cause havoc and destruction with their inflexible fanaticism; but they usually don't run the biggest economy in the world. But these laissez-faire voodoo-economics zealots in charge of the USA have now caused the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression and the nastiest economic crisis in decades.
"So let them be shamed in public for their hypocrisy and zealotry that has caused so much financial and economic damage."Roubini appears to be underwhelmed by the Feds bail out however, writing on the 19/9/08 in RGE Monitor he said
""At this point a severe recession is unavoidable; the only question is how severe and protracted it will be. Debt reduction and public recapitalization of banks will not instantly resolve every problem and will not prevent a painful recession that – at this point – will last at least 18 month."
NB Roubini predicted this crisis as long ago as September 2006- See here-http://www.alternet.org/story/95375/meet_the_economist_who_thinks_we%27re_doomed/