Tuesday, November 08, 2011
Debt as Tyranny
Thinking on the national debt and the local city debt is enough to create insomnia. City debt is more familiar to me and with that is a bit of contempt for the decision-making that mired the city in debt and more debt continues to be an attraction even though insolvency looms as borrowing has been the budget crutch in the city for the past few years. Why is borrowed money considered income in the accounting? Borrowed money is not income to be lumped in the general fund and spent on whatever. Borrowing money is a focused enterprise, hopefully with increased income or better conditions as a result of the cost of borrowing money. Around here, the real cost of borrowing money ranges about 30-50% of the principal, which is usurious but seems so desirable to the politicians who are courted by the lenders to borrow.
Politicians who borrow against revenue streams are indebting those streams for years after their term of office is over. They are often long gone and the taxpayers are still paying on those debts, ill conceived or not. The power these politicians have over our lives and environment is now reaching into the future lives of our descendents, as the politicians' insatiable urges to control cash seems to be more important than planning for the future.
Apparently in Greece, the deal seems to be that the Greeks are expected to borrow money at 85% interest and if the latest bailout plan works, the holders of the risky Greek debt will rake in the principal plus 85% interest, all paid for by whomever is paying for the bailout. Since our President did not agree to pay this bailout, then the taxpayers are off the hook to pay that usury and allow those investors to collect big. Nobody should pay that money. A cyberspace rumor is floating around that a banker is going to take over the reins of government in Greece. If the spring drifts north all bets are off so the foolishness of creating a climate perfect for new species will result in unwarranted competition, in ecological terms. Doesn't anybody remember the plight of the Germans after WWI when they were forced to pay war reparations to the point they had nothing left? That political economic mistake led to WWII.
I think the moneylenders need to take a haircut and either go broke or get on with it. They deserve that for all the easy credit they offered on all levels, without checking to determine if any of the borrowers could pay it back. Liberal tax codes allowed for massive tax deductions on defaults. Tax deductions for these losses should not be allowed, since the evidence shows a lack of responsibility on the part of the lender in vetting potential borrowers. So incompetence in the workplace is compensated for by the government in the form of tax breaks? Just think of all the money paid in commissions to lenders who set up these deals. "Fund managers" who invested pension funds and other critical money should be liable for these reckless losses and 'bailouts' should be aimed at the pension funds, not the clown who handled the crappy investments.
Back to the politicians who recklessly borrow and spend, whatever happened to bond elections, where voters had to give permission for borrowing? Around here, the euphemism for borrowing is 'certificate of participation', which bring in millions in debt. The RTA is issuing bonds after receiving .5 cent sales tax to do a job. The borrowing adds more than 30% to the cost, but was it in the voter proposal as an expense? So we were told that it was always understood there would be borrowing. They're wasting over a third of the money they get on debt, but they get to dole out the millions. Refinancing existing debt by rolling over the old debt and starting over with the principal after fees are paid and a few bucks doled out keeps the taxpayers in hock for a longer time, but what the hell, let's spend that cash now and leave nothing but a hole in the ground for posterity. Your kids can pay for it too; it's worth it to somebody. Let's have some legislation that calls a debt a debt and demands voter approval for incurrence.
Debt is tyranny. A forced payment brought on by government borrowing. The spending of tax money on moneylenders is outrageous and should not be allowed above a certain point. It is called the debt limit, which is now an object of ridicule. How about establishing a realistic debt limit and limits on what borrowed money can be spent on? Prosecute officials who spend borrowed money on anything else or who build up costoverruns resulting in partial completion. Somebody has to take responsibility.
Fannie and Freddie, the Fed lending houses that eagerly buy mortgage securities, are a losing proposition, where mismanagement has resulted in a request for billions more tax money subsidy every year, owes the taxpayers $141billion and is now paying top executives $12million in bonuses this year. Who else gets a reward for running a heavy deficit when the Federal government is running a deficit and making it all worse by billions? Close them down. We don't need any more mortgage securities or derivatives and who likes them is totally irrelevant to what needs to be done. Make the lenders responsible for what they lend locally. The power of the mortgage brokers needs to be broken. Real estate prices might fall, which would identify more potential buyers.
One way to avoid more public debt, particularly that foisted off on the voters without permitting a vote, is to adjust the size of the contracts to be awarded. Smaller contracts would favor local workers, while the huge contractors want huge lump sums borrowed and given to them on a large scale. These smaller contracts would be contingent upon receipt of the tax support, which would have some consistency. Smaller, shorter term contracts based on actual revenue would favor local, small contractors. The money paid them would stay in town circulating instead of flying out of state or even out of the country. It is time to set up the local bidding process in such a way as to favor local small contractors who employ local workers without forced union representation. This is a right to work state. Costs need to be lowered on all fronts, which would create more jobs. Smaller contracts contingent on revenue would avoid debt and would allow for incremental building of projects using all of the assigned money with none going to the moneylenders.
Another problem is the 'underwater mortgage' problem. Remember the last real estate boom, the Subprime Boom? During the boom in Vegas, houses were actually selling for more than the asking price, the bidding was so fierce. Inflated housing prices were the norm. If you could fog a mirror, you could get credit. If you wanted to buy a home, you had to pay, like $275,000+ for a cheap 1200 sq. ft. cookie cutter. Around here that overbuilt item is selling for around $40-50,000 and falling. How far can the prices drop? Maybe until the average Joe can actually afford the loan payment.
The debt pervasiveness also keeps rents jacked up so the principal and interest on the debt can be paid, with a profit for the leinholder after that. Renters are expected to pay the subprime boom mortgage price for the lienholder plus more for maintenance costs and profit. The stagnation of the real estate and rental market is due to a heavy debt load that absorbs cash and does not produce jobs. Debt jacks up the price of everything.
The tyranny of debt has brought economic exploitation and now protesters to the streets. We need legislation to prevent politicians from borrowing anything over a reasonable debt limit and any borrowing has to have the consent of the voters. The voters need control because the voters pay for it. It's easy to blow money when somebody else pays for it. No more Certificates of Participation or any other disguised borrowing. The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) is claiming power to indebt based on the 1/2 cent sales tax they command and I question their legal right to indebt this fund without a vote of the people.
Our legislators can help the voters get control of public indebtedness and the time to act is nigh. No more moneylenders in the temple of government.