Big Banks Warned Of Coming Economic Collapse?

Some of my colleagues are pointing to the following story about big U.S. banks being directed to develop “recovery plans” as these institutions being warned about a soon-to-be-coming economic collapse. Rick Rothacker wrote on the Reuters website on August 10:

U.S. regulators directed five of the country’s biggest banks, including Bank of America Corp and Goldman Sachs Group Inc, to develop plans for staving off collapse if they faced serious problems, emphasizing that the banks could not count on government help.

The two-year-old program, which has been largely secret until now, is in addition to the “living wills” the banks crafted to help regulators dismantle them if they actually do fail. It shows how hard regulators are working to ensure that banks have plans for worst-case scenarios and can act rationally in times of distress.

Note the two years. Rothacker added:

According to documents obtained by Reuters, the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency first directed five banks – which also include Citigroup Inc., Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase & Co – to come up with these “recovery plans” in May 2010.

They told banks to consider drastic efforts to prevent failure in times of distress, including selling off businesses, finding other funding sources if regular borrowing markets shut them out, and reducing risk. The plans must be feasible to execute within three to six months, and banks were to “make no assumption of extraordinary support from the public sector,” according to the documents.

So, have these large financial institutions been given a heads-up by Washington and the Fed about a rapidly-approaching economic crash?

I don’t know. All of this could just be a drawn-out reaction to the Lehman Brothers fiasco of 2008.

That being said, I do expect more carnage in the financial system as the economic crisis marches on.


Rothacker, Rick. “Exclusive: U.S. banks told to make plans for preventing collapse.” Reuters. 10 Aug. 2012. ( 15 Aug. 2012.

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Wednesday, August 15th, 2012 Bailouts, Banking, Federal Reserve, Government, Recovery No Comments

TARP Update: $119 Billion Still Owed, Could Eventually Lose $60 Billion

The Troubled Assets Relief Program, which was widely reviled as a $700 billion bailout for Wall Street titans, is now expected to cost the federal government a mere $25 billion – the equivalent of less than six months of emergency jobless benefits.

Washington Post, November 30, 2010

The government’s bailout of banks may cost U.S. taxpayers nearly two times more than originally estimated, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The Troubled Asset Released Program, better known as TARP, will cost the federal government $34 billion, the CBO reported on its director’s blog.

-Huffington Post, December 16, 2011

$25 billion. $34 billion. These days, the U.S. government thinks TARP could eventually lose $60 billion. From Ronald Orol on the MarketWatch website early this morning:

Taxpayers are still owed $119 billion in outstanding Troubled Asset Relief Program funds, a watchdog for the government crisis response program said Wednesday in a quarterly report to Congress.

That number is down from $133 billion in TARP funds owed as of January, according to the author of the report, the Office of the Special Inspector General for the TARP. The government expects TARP to lose $60 billion.

The program was set up during the height of the financial crisis of 2008 to stem a growing credit contagion by providing taxpayer-funded capital injections into big and smaller banks.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Opponents of TARP have argued that the bailout would end up wasting a huge chunk of taxpayer funds. Supporters of the program have responded that the U.S. financial system was in serious danger if these funds weren’t provided.


Orol, Ronald D. “Taxpayers still on hook for $119 bln in TARP funds.” MarketWatch. 25 Apr. 2012. ( 25 Apr. 2012.

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Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 Bailouts, Banking, Credit, Government No Comments

Senate Democrats Push Bill Freezing Student Loan Interest Rates, Risk Alienating Small Business

Student loans. Sure- they suck. I had them. I wouldn’t have been able to attend college and graduate school without them (Dad: “You’re on your own once you graduate high school.”). And I finally got done paying them off recently.

These days, student loan debt is getting a lot of media exposure. Even CNBC talked about the problem this morning. Kelly Evans wrote on the CNBC website:

Here’s what we do know about student loan debt: it’s roughly $1 trillion in size, greater than either auto or credit-card debt and second only to mortgage debt in the U.S.

Borrowers in their 30s today owe $28,500, on average. The debt burden has soared just as — and partly because — the recession hit, so younger graduates carrying the highest balances are hit with the double whammy of a weak job market (that still isn’t showing any sign of rapid improvement).

And this all comes as globalization and technological change have upended once-reliable career paths, wiped out many mid-level professional jobs and leave low-paying fields in health, food and beverage services, and retail as among the fastest growing job markets over the next decade.

Oh, and consider that student loan debt remains one of the most difficult types to forgive or discharge in bankruptcy, in part because the federal government (i.e. taxpayers) made or guaranteed 80 percent of all outstanding student loan debt as of last year. And finally, that once loans in deferral or forbearance are excluded, the delinquency rate on student loan debt was an estimated 27 percent as of the third quarter of 2011, according to a study by the New York Fed.

Worried? Americans should be.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

In an economy that’s powered by consumer spending, too much student loan debt cripples consumption by these younger Americans.

And now, for one or reason or another, the calls are growing for a student loan bailout or some kind of relief. And Democrats in the U.S. Senate are responding. Alan Fram of the Associated Press wrote this morning:

Senate Democrats are ready with an election-year bill preventing interest rates from rising for millions of college students with federal loans. Republicans are already balking at the way Democrats would cover its $5.9 billion price tag: boosting payroll taxes on the owners of some privately held firms.

Democrats unveiled their bill late Tuesday, a measure that would prevent today’s 3.4 percent interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans for low- and middle-income students from doubling automatically on July 1. The interest rate freeze, which would help 7.4 million people, would last for a year…

Republicans trained their fire on Democrats’ plan to finance the bill by making it harder for owners of smaller, privately owned companies called S corporations to avoid paying Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes on some of their income.

The proposal would apply to such companies with incomes exceeding $250,000 and whose revenues come mostly from the work of three or fewer owners. The higher payroll taxes would also be required for some law firms, doctors’ practices and other professional services partnerships.

(Editor’s notes: Italics added for emphasis)

According to Fram, Senate Democratic aides said the legislation would pay for itself with around $6 billion in extra Medicare taxes collected from these private companies over the next decade.

I think I understand what the Democrats are trying to accomplish here:

• Continue their election year political strategy of populism
• Re-energize young Americans to support Barack Obama’s re-election bid in November
• Tap into some much-needed funds for Social Security and Medicare
• Actually help these indebted former students

On the flip-side, I anticipate the legislation might not only alienate even more small business owners from the Obama administration and Democratic Party, but- if signed into law- could make them reconsider hiring additional personnel down the road due to these new payroll taxes. With Tax Doomsday already fast-approaching, such a tax hit is bound to fuel even more uncertainty among small business owners going forward.

As small businesses have generated 65 percent of net new jobs over the past 17 years, young Americans might have to get used to those “low-paying fields in health, food and beverage services, and retail” for some time longer.


Evans, Kelly. “Student Loans: The Next Bailout?” CNBC. 25 Apr. 2012. ( 25 Apr. 2012.

Fram, Alan. “Senate Dems ready bill freezing student loan costs.” Associated Press. 25 Apr. 2012. ( 25 Apr. 2012.

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Quote For The Week

Recently, money manager Jim Puplava of the Financial Sense Newshour and economist John Williams, Executive Editor at Shadow Government Statistics, discussed the prospects of inflation/deflation for the United States. Williams believes hyperinflation is inevitable by 2014. From the March 20 FSN broadcast:

PUPLAVA: John, why do you think we have not seen hyperinflation up until this point? Is it because we’ve had a deleveraging on the debt side that has been offsetting the effects of monetary and fiscal stimulus?

WILLIAMS: No, it’s pretty much on track with what I’d expected. I haven’t been forecasting hyperinflation every month here that it’s going to happen in the next month. Initially, I thought it would be out at the end of this decade because of the long-term insolvency of the government. The way this financial crisis broke and the way things were handled, has accelerated that- I put it around 2014- and there’s risk that it could break any time once you start to see massive selling pressure on the dollar. All that massive selling pressure on the dollar and all ? from the financial panic and what’s happened the last couple years, which has made things worse. What the Fed has done in the way of creating money here generally has been aimed at propping up the banking system. They talk out of both sides of their mouth. They talk, “Oh, we want to stimulate the economy. Keep inflation contained.” Then they do whatever they have to do to keep the banking system afloat. We’re still in a crisis mode. We have a systemic solvency crisis. All the money the Fed created went into the money supply. You would have had a hyperinflation, but it didn’t. The banks put it into excess reserves on deposit with the Fed. They didn’t have the ability to lend it. But it will happen because the long-term insolvency that we were faced with- now it’s being accelerated by everything that the government’s doing. And I expect it all to come to a head by 2014…

2014. First, Jim Rogers showed concern about the year. Now, John Williams. Who next?

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60 Minutes Segment About Eurozone Crisis, Potential Impact On United States

We’re in a debt crisis. Eurozone countries have way too much debt. We have gorged on debt. We are living beyond out means. And after 10 years of booming economic times- it is now payback time. We are paying back our credit cards, and that will prove very painful and costly…

Well, the U.S. is doing terribly well at the moment. However, clearly if the Eurozone has a really bad time of it this year, which it could well do, then America will not escape unscathed.

-Louise Cooper, Senior Financial Analyst at BGC Partners, talking to Steve Kroft in a recent interview that appeared on the CBS show 60 Minutes this past Sunday. Cooper has been called “The Downturn Diva” by the British press.

“An Imperfect Union: Europe’s debt crisis”
CBS News Video

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Marc Faber Warns ‘Massive Wealth Destruction Coming Down The Line’

CNBC’s Squawk Box talked to “Doctor Doom” Marc Faber yesterday morning, and boy did he ever dish out a case of the Mondays. The Swiss-born investment adviser/fund manager told CNBC viewers:

Well, basically, I think that the whole bailout and those with the money printing will not create long lasting wealth, nor will it create healthy economic growth. And I look at the world, then I see well-to-do people that have done unbelievably well, and I see the middle class and the working class that hasn’t done well. And I think somewhere down the line, we will have a massive wealth destruction that usually happens either through very high inflation, or through social unrest, or through war, or a credit market collapse. Maybe all of it will happen but at different times.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

The publisher of the monthly investment newsletter The Gloom Boom & Doom Report was asked to put a number on this destroyed wealth, and Dr. Faber responded:

Well, I would say that well-to-do people may lose up to 50 percent of their total wealth. They’ll still be well-to-do. Instead of a billion, they’ll have, say $500 million. But I think that there is a massive wealth destruction coming down the line. I’m not saying it will happen tomorrow. But I think looking at the bailouts, and the money printing, they basically have postponed the problems, and actually made them larger in the sense that the government debt has increased dramatically, and somewhere a solution will have to be found for this government debt.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Faber, who became famous for advising clients to get out of the U.S. stock market one week before the October 1987 crash and for predicting the 2008 global financial crisis (among other calls), gave the following investment advice:

Well, I think, in my report I also pointed out there is one asset class that is relatively depressed, and these are properties in the South of the United States. In Georgia, in Arizona, in Florida- I think there, property values will not collapse much more, and stabilize. And so I think to own some land and some property, not necessarily in the financial centers but in the secondary cities, is a desirable investment relatively speaking. And I think people should own some gold, and I think people should own some equities, because before the collapse will happen with Mr. Bernanke at the Fed, they’re going to print money- and print, and print, and print. And so what you can get is a bad economy, but rising equity prices.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

You can watch the entire segment on the CNBC website here.

(Editor’s notes: I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein; info added to “Crash Prophets” page)

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Peter Schiff In Rebuttal Lecture To Fed Chair Ben Bernanke

You may have heard that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has been on the lecture trail lately, giving a series of four public lectures at George Washington University that some think is the U.S. central bank’s latest effort to counter negative public sentiment. Truth be told, I haven’t been really following it, but a cursory glance at some of what the Fed Chair’s been saying is “interesting,” to say the least:

I think the view is increasingly gaining acceptance that without the forceful policy response that stabilized the financial system in 2008 and early 2009, we could’ve had a much worse outcome in the economy

-March 27 lecture

There’s no consensus on this, but the evidence I’ve seen suggests that monetary policy did not play an important role in raising house prices during the upswing

-March 22 lecture

I think, though, that the gold standard would not be feasible for both practical reasons and policy reasons

-March 20 lecture

While surfing the Los Angeles Times website this morning, I came upon a piece that announced “crash prophet” and Euro Pacific Capital CEO Peter Schiff would be giving a rebuttal to Chairman Bernanke’s lectures later today. From a March 26 press release on the website of Washington, D.C.-based non-profit FreedomWorks:

WHAT: FreedomWorks Foundation and Reason will co-host a special lecture by renowned economist Peter Schiff as he responds to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s four-part College Lecture Series at George Washington University School of Business.

WHEN: Thursday, March 29, 2012 at 3:00pm ET, lasting approximately one hour.

An opportunity for Q&A and a reception will follow the formal response.

WHERE: Reason’s DC Headquarters, 1747 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009.

The event will also be live-streamed from the FreedomWorks Facebook page,

WHY: While Chairman Bernanke explains to students how the Federal Reserve “saved the economy,” Peter Schiff will outline the ways in which the Federal Reserve contributed to the housing crisis and current economic recession in the first place.

The Federal Reserve bears significant responsibility for every financial crisis over the past century, including the Great Depression, stagflation in the 1970’s and most recently, the 2008 economic meltdown.

A 2011 audit of the Federal Reserve found $16 trillion in secret bailouts to corporations and banks around the world in less than three years. Documents released in the same year revealed foreign banks to be one of the largest recipients of Federal Reserve money during the 2008 economic downturn.

These secret deals, bailouts, and massive expansion of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet were all overseen by Ben Bernanke, with almost no Congressional oversight.

You can RSVP to watch the streaming video on the FreedomWorks website here.

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Quote For The Week

Not wanting to sound like Gandhi, but at least we didn’t rape everybody and burn the village down.

-Michael Gasior, Wall Street veteran, investment author, and founder and President of AFS Seminars, contrasting today’s Wall Street and its use of bailout funds with that of the 1980s, in episode 822 of The Survival Podcast (aired January 17, 2012)


Monday, January 30th, 2012 Bailouts, Quote For The Week, Wall Street No Comments

Signs Of The Time, Part 30

Spring 1994. Champaign, Illinois. For some unexplained reason, Stephen King and ABC tried to derail my final exams by airing The Stand television mini-series that same week. Now, I’ve never read the post-apocalyptic horror/fantasy novel, so I can’t tell you if what was shown on TV also happened in the book, but one thing I remember from the mini-series was that the survivors split into two camps- one good, one bad. Everything was ugly after society’s collapse.

Fall 2011. America seems to be growing increasingly polarized as time marches on. Maybe not in a “good versus evil” sense like above, but sharply divided in mindset about wealth, government, religion, and so on. One topic that consistently brings out strong opinions is personal accountability. There are many Americans, perhaps conditioned by constant exposure to all the recent bailouts going on and the emerging Nanny State, that minimize or completely disregard the notion of individual responsibility. From the Associated Press’ Tracie Cone on October 10:

Armando Castillo knew he should not attempt the last treacherous stretch up Half Dome with storm clouds looming. But he felt he had come too far not to accomplish his goal.

So up the side of the slick, granite monolith he went, 400 vertical feet at nearly a 40 percent grade.

“About three-quarters of the way up it started hailing,” he said. “There’s a bunch of people and everybody just stops. Some women started crying because it was slippery and pretty scary. Then it cleared up.”

While others turned back, Castillo pushed on up the park’s iconic feature, making him one of Yosemite National Park’s worst nightmares— the increasing number of wilderness neophytes who mistakenly think the government is obligated to save them.

“People are pushing their luck, trying to beat the weather, and their backup plan is to call for a rescue,” said Mark Marschall, project manager for the Half Dome interim permit program. “They’re not understanding what that means. We can’t fly in that kind of weather. They’re on their own.”

The problem has surfaced in recent weeks on the park’s most inspiring hike, where visitors confronted by unseasonable rains are ignoring warning signs and common sense. With less than a month to go until the Half Dome route is closed, park officials are making a rare appeal for visitors to use discretion on the trail.

“Over the last few weekends we’ve had some lightning and thunderstorms on Half Dome, but people are still going up,” said park spokesman Scott Gediman, who adds that for two weekends in a row people have called 911 for rescue.

Some callers tell the dispatcher they want to use their platinum credit card for the free helicopter ride some companies guarantee in an emergency. Park officials don’t charge for rescues — nearly 1,000 rescues cost more than $2.5 million between 2007 and 2010 — but neither do they fly in dangerous weather.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Castillo, a salsa dancer by trade, had the following to say after his rescue. Cone wrote:

“After the fact I realized it’s the wilderness and they’re not supposed to do anything, but I did go in expecting a little more of a warning,” said Castillo, who plans to return.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

I’m sure park officials will be overjoyed to see him too.

By the way, Cone added the day after Castillo got in trouble, a group of 20 hikers also called 911.

Then there are those Americans whose views concerning personal accountability swing all the way over to the opposite side of the spectrum. Not only is one responsible for their individual actions, but if someone else happens to be deliberately-harmed by such activity- well, in the words of the American icon Laurence Tureaud, aka Mr. T:


From the Associated Press earlier today:

Saying it’s time to stop letting convicted killers “get off that easy,” a Florida state lawmaker wants to use firing squads or the electric chair for those on death row.

Rep. Brad Drake filed a bill this week that would end the use of lethal injection in Florida executions. Instead, those with a death sentence would choose between electrocution or a firing squad

Lethal injection just allows a person to die in their sleep while a firing squad or electrocution would force death row inmates to think about their punishment “every morning,” Drake said.

“I think if you ask a hundred people, not even talking to criminals, how would you like to die, if you were drowned, if you were shot, and if you say you were put to sleep, 90 percent of some of the people would say I want to be put to sleep,” Drake said. “Let’s put our pants back on the right way.”

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

As for those finals in ’94? I did alright from what I remember. Regardless, no University of Illinois professor I knew of back then would have granted me a do-over based on the excuse that my poor grade was the result of too much apocalyptic TV.

These days, who knows?


Cone, Tracie. “Half Dome survivors wish they had taken heed.” Associated Press. 10 Oct. 2011. ( 13 Oct. 2011.

“Florida Lawmaker Proposes Bringing Back Firing Squads.” Associated Press. 13 Oct. 2011. ( 13 Oct. 2011.

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Thursday, October 13th, 2011 Bailouts, Crime, Government, Signs Of The Time No Comments

Nouriel Roubini : Another Severe Recession Might Be Impossible To Avoid

Yesterday I checked-in with one “Dr. Doom,” Marc Faber, to find out his thoughts about the recent financial turmoil. Today, I’ll be looking at the other one. Nouriel Roubini, the former Treasury official under the Clinton administration who, like Faber, also correctly-predicted the global economic crisis, wrote an article in the Financial Times (UK) on Monday. While the chairman of Roubini Global Economics focused his attention on the “West” in his opinion piece, he spoke enough about the United States to give us a pretty good picture of where he thinks we’re at…

The first half of 2011 showed a slowdown of growth – if not outright contraction – in most advanced economies. Optimists said this was a temporary soft patch. This delusion has been dashed. Even before last week’s panic, the US and other advanced economies were odds-on for a second severe recession.

America’s recent data have been lousy: there has been little job creation, weak growth and flat consumption and manufacturing production. Housing remains depressed. Consumer, business and investor confidence has been falling, and will now fall further

Until last year policymakers could always produce a new rabbit from their hat to trigger asset reflation and economic recovery. Zero policy rates, QE1, QE2, credit easing, fiscal stimulus, ring-fencing, liquidity provision to the tune of trillions of dollars and bailing out banks and financial institutions – all have been tried. But now we have run out of rabbits to reveal.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

And where the United States may be heading…

The misguided decision by Standard & Poor’s to downgrade the US at a time of such severe market turmoil and economic weakness only increases the chances of a double dip and even larger fiscal deficits. Paradoxically, however, US Treasuries will probably remain the world’s least ugly safe asset: risk aversion, equity declines and a looming slump could even see treasury yields fall rather than rise…

Hopes for quantitative easing will be constrained by inflation that is well above target levels across the west. The Federal Reserve will probably start a third round of QE, but it will be too little too late. Last year’s $600bn QE2 (along with $1,000bn of tax cuts and transfers) produced a growth bump of barely 3 per cent, for one quarter. QE3 will be much smaller, and will do much less.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Dr. Roubini, who’s also a professor at the Stern School, NYU, isn’t sure if the United States can avoid another significant economic downturn. He concluded in his opinion piece:

So can we avoid another severe recession? It might simply be mission impossible. The best bet is for those countries that have not lost market access – the US, UK, Japan, and Germany – to introduce new short-term fiscal stimulus while committing to medium-term fiscal austerity. The US downgrade will hasten demands for fiscal reduction, but America in particular should commit to look for significant cuts in the medium term, not an immediate fiscal drag that will worsen growth and deficits…

Finally, since this is a crisis of solvency as well as liquidity, orderly debt restructuring must begin. This means across the board reduction on the mortgage debt for the roughly half of America’s households that are underwater, and bail-ins for creditors of banks in distress.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Not quite sure if that last part about more housing and bank bailouts will go over very well with a large segment of the American public these days. It’s that same question that was being asked with increasing frequency back in 2008- why should I and my hard-earned money have to pay for your failed bet, bad judgment, and/or misfortune?


Roubini, Nouriel. “Mission impossible: stop another recession.” Financial Times. 8 Aug. 2011.( 10 Aug. 2011.

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