Sunday, 1 November 2009

Air Shots

Some while ago I blogged on how many golfers, when faced with an immovable object like a tree blocking their route to the green, will choose to hit through the tree rather than round it in the vain hope that there is more clear space than branch to be hit.

I argued that the reality is that by using a club of a specific loft and length you actually narrow the area of tree you are aiming at and in that 'corridor' of the shot you actually increase not decrease your chances of hitting branches as you increase the amount of space occupied by the branches in the corridor with respect to the total available space in that corridor. When you think about it, you are taking the very randomness of the tree's branch arrangement out of the equation by hitting at it. The logical course of action would be to take the tree completely out of the equation and go around it using two shots rather than risk wasting shots.

I would argue this is precisely what happened on Quantitative Easing (QE) by the Government. In piling a ton of cash at a problem, they viewed the financial crisis as a tree blocking their way to rescue. Their logic was that if you pile so much money at the problem some of it has to get through. But that was the wrong assumption as banks needed an extraordinarily large amount of money to shore up their huge lending gaps - RBS' alone was £161bn and the total QE to date has been £175bn.

What has happened is that the QE has been horded by the banks as free new money which they use to play casino banking or just keep. Very little of it has got into the wider circulation as the recent M4 figures on money supply has shown. In fact, the money measure M4 decreased despite QE.

This was the equivalent of a golfer hitting a ball directly at the tree and hoping they hit a gap to get through. If only someone had stopped and thought what the real cause of the banking crisis was then QE would not have been the best measure to deal with it or at least they could have thought of a better way to introduce it. In fact, by buying bonds in our own debt, they played right into the hands of the very banks that caused the entire problem who had been commanded by the Government and FSA to do precisely what QE allowed them to do - increase their capital to lending ratios without lifting a finger.

In hindsight it was obvious but it has been the modus operandi of the Government in this whole crisis. They have paid millions for duff advice from bankers and think they did the right thing. Now all the real measures of our economy like GDP and money supply show that what they did was either wrong or wrongly executed. You cannot argue with the figures, our management of the crisis was sheer panic measures.

Now we have the great bank sell off bonanza to come. The proposal is that new high street banks will be created in the new market conditions free of encumbrances. Investors are going to have a field day as we split profitable businesses from bad ones and sell them off nice and cheap and just watch how much profit foreign and private investors will make on our business. You can feel exactly what will happen and a few years down the line we will find every single one of our High Street chains of banks will be owned by foreign companies profiting out of our mortgages and lending needs.

You don't believe me? Our utilities have already gone that way in water and power, many High St banks are foreign owned already like Alliance & Leicester, Abbey, HSBC and the Royal Mail will be sold to a foreign company. In each case, the dirty end of the stick will be held by tax payers as we pay the profits of our mortgages to foreign companies.

You could not invent a better strategy to waste tax payers money by constantly leaving them with the bills while the profitable bits of the businesses they bought are sold off. But that is the key to the Government plan - the taxpayer is there to fund the rubbish.

As a quick for instance, the good part of Northern Rock will be sold for £1bn and we will still be owed £27bn when that happens plus the liabilities. Great deal, eh? Just watch the rest of them.
Meanwhile, us would-be golfers have learnt our lesson - it's better to hit round the tree than at it.

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