Clintonomics Redux

Friday, 23 Sep 2011 07:40 AM

By Barry Elias

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Recently, the Chief Executive Officer and President of Newsmax, Christopher Ruddy, interviewed President Clinton while attending the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) forum in New York City. 

CGI is a non- profit entity founded in 2005 by President Clinton and the William J. Clinton Foundation. Through public and private collaboration amongst leaders in business, government, and non-governmental organizations (NGO), CGI facilitates actionable solutions to global issues. 

President Clinton’s post-presidential involvement in world affairs is rather admirable.

In his interview with Ruddy, President Clinton was correct when he stated behavior during the past 30 years was debilitating to our standard of living and resulted in a further bifurcation of the economic strata.

During this time, the top 1% of income earners more than doubled their share of income from 8% in 1980 to nearly 20% today.  Most of this was not due to value creation; it was the result of wealth transfer based on irresponsible, and at times deceitful, practices.

Unfortunately, some of the economic policies promoted during Clinton’s administration enabled the excessive, irresponsible risk-taking initiatives that he wishes to correct. Those policies permitted the metastasis of an economic and financial pathology that seriously eroded our socioeconomic construct.  Due to interconnected global activity, our crisis has had worldwide ramifications. .

President Clinton signed two pieces of legislation that accelerated this dynamic:

1.  The Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 (Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act)

2.  Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 (CFMA)

Moreover, I believe President Clinton misunderstood the economic realities of the Savings and Loan (S&L) crisis in the 1980s. During his interview with Ruddy, Clinton claimed that the economic growth during the Reagan administration in the 1980s was the result of debt deleveraging (debt reduction).

This interpretation is anathema to reality.

Deleveraging of debt following the S&L crisis occurred after President Reagan completed his second term in office (1989). The growth during the 1980s may have been the result of the excessive risk-taking endeavors of the S&L’s that were permitted by government, similar to the current financial dynamics. The manifestation was a recession in 1991, which ironically catapulted Clinton to the presidency in 1992.

The following article of mine, published by Newsmax on May 6, 2011, describes my analysis of President Clinton’s policies in more detail. I wrote:

“Several years ago, when the financial system imploded, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) website proclaimed President Bill Clinton was responsible for 90 percent of the outstanding Community Reinvestment Act loans.

“Curiously, this information did not appear at his website several months later.

“The reason: that statistic isn’t positive.

“The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 was well intended: to eliminate discrimination when considering mortgage applications. However, in the mid-1990s, President Clinton implemented a policy that used this legislation to promote homeownership based more on demographics than financial affordability (e.g., income and assets).

“Roughly five years later, President Clinton signed and enacted The Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 (Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act) and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 (CFMA).

“The former permitted commercial banks to participate in additional industries: investment banking, securities, and insurance. The latter permitted derivatives to trade privately on the OTC (Over-the-Counter), which isn’t a public exchange.

“These bills enabled financial engineers to camouflage the real risks associated with these mortgages. Ultimately, these undercapitalized debt obligations brought the global financial system to its collective knees.

“This explains the absence of President Clinton’s previous pronouncement at his website regarding these loans.

“The clearinghouse is the fulcrum that perpetuated the pathology with a four part strategy to optimize profits: high product (derivative) quantity, excessive leverage, large commission spreads, and huge trading volume.

“High product (derivative) quantity: The Bank of International Settlements (BIS) indicates the total face value of outstanding OTC derivatives increased from $100 trillion in 2000 to $600 trillion in 2008, when the market crashed.

“Excessive leverage: The OTC debt to equity levels increased 3-4 times above normal. Therefore, the potential losses exceeded the available capital by 3 or 4 times (losers may not have funds to compensate the winners).

“Large commission spreads: large spreads were achieved, since the buyer and seller are unaware of the negotiated price for the other (only the private clearinghouse this knowledge)

“High trading volume: High frequency trading (HFT) increased trading volume by increasing volatility.

“High frequency trading was the engine that drove the system.

“This methodology is based on optimizing excess demand: the additional price some are willing to pay above and beyond the market price. This system intentionally promotes a price disequilibrium. At the higher price paid by some, aggregate demand becomes less than aggregate supply. As a result, the price ultimately will fall back to its equilibrium.

“Therefore, this strategy increases volatility, trading volume, revenue, and profits. The demand initiated by the HFT’s is artificial.

“From 2006 through 2009 daily trading volume doubled to 9 billion shares. It has plummeted to 5.8 billion shares today. Gross profit per 100 traded shares fell 50 percent from roughly 12 cents to 6 cents.

“The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is considering a limit on equity price movements. As a result, the HFTs are focusing on the futures market, which includes commodities and currencies. According to the Aite Group, a Boston-based research firm, HFTs represent 28 percent of the futures trading volume, up from 22 percent in 2009. The Tabb Group estimates they account for 53 percent of equity trading volume, down from 61 percent in 2009.

“Recently, the HFTs have wrought havoc in these markets, creating massive volatility. In one second this past February, sugar fell 6 percent. Later that month, cocoa futures dropped 13 percent in seconds, and within minutes on March 16, the US dollar dropped 5 percent against the Japanese yen.

“This volatility has forced the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), the commodities-markets operator, to implement circuit breakers that halt trading when the price moves beyond a specified range.

“The European Commission, the European Union’s antitrust regulator, is investigating potential anti-competitive behavior (collusion) in the OTC derivatives market.

“The first involves possible anti-competitive pricing and information gathering in the credit default swap market (CDS). Sixteen banks; Markit, a CDS information provider, and ICE Clear Europe derivatives clearinghouse are being reviewed. The banks include: Bank of America, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Citigroup, Commerzbank, Credit Agricole, Credit Suiss, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Royal Bank of Scotland, Societe Generale, UBS, Wells Fargo. The second is examining whether nine of the firms and ICE prevented others from entering the market.

“Clearinghouse collusion would certainly contribute to the confluence that caused this crisis.”

© 2014 Moneynews. All rights reserved.

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