From The Geronimo Manifesto:
The paramount reason for today's cancerous credit crisis is seldom even hinted and never explained.
First, a simple definition. A credit default swap is a form of insurance. A variant of mortgage insurance required of many home purchasers. An insurance policy that requires a company with financial strength to step up to the plate and pay the mortgage if for some reason the home buyer defaults.
A credit default swap is similar: If default occurs, an insurance company pays the income stream of the mortgage.
With one extremely important difference: Payments are made to the owner of the policy, not to the financial institution that stands to suffer a loss.
Financial institutions are allowed, through total lack of regulation, to buy and sell credit default swaps, or insurance they will be paid in event of default, on financial instruments in which they have no financial interest.
Start with a simple example. Assume I know the young son of the couple next door likes to crawl into closets and play with matches. I therefore see a reasonably good shot at "winning the disaster lottery" so to speak, by buying fire insurance on their $200,000 house.
In simple terms, I now have a financial interest is seeing that disaster occurs. If the house, for whatever mysterious reason, burns down an insurance company will pay me the insured value of the house - even though I suffered no loss, financial or otherwise. My neighbor's misfortune is thus magically transformed into my good fortune. A polite way of saying I was paid $200,000, the insured value of my next-door neighbor's house, after I paid the $400 insurance premium.
Being bright and suitably equipped with an MBA from a prestigious eastern university, I well and fully understand the desirable objective of maximizing my return on investment. I can accomplish this in one or both of two ways - increasing the return or decreasing the investment.
I can increase the return by artificially increasing the value of the house - say from $200,000 to $400,000. This will allow me to collect twice as much for suffering no personal loss. The easiest way to accomplish this would be to hire one of my buddies, who happens to be a real estate appraiser, to "document" the higher value.
I could also decrease my investment - meaning the premium I paid for the insurance, say from $400 to $200. The easiest way to do this would be to hire a widely acclaimed "fire risk rating agency" to send out an inspector who will look around (or perhaps only drive by without stopping) and then solemnly declare: "This house is fireproof".
Poors and Standard Fire Rating Company and Doomys Fire Rating Agency would be excellent choices, based on their prior experience.
In the real world, meaning Main Street as opposed to Wall Street, this would be illegal. Against the public interest, because it encourages houses to mysteriously burn down. The insurance policies owned by people without a financial stake in the fire would be declared null and void because they are contrary to public policy, which sees minimizing the number of mysterious house fires as a good thing.
Rather than a bad thing, as now occurs under America's predatory capitalist system.
Now change an assumption. Assume I tell 99 of my poker-playing gambler friends about the boy's strange and dangerous interest. Starting with my appraiser buddy, who's predatory income as a result of a mysterious fire will double, as a direct result of his appraisal.
Now assume the $400,000 house burns to the ground. One hundred or so insurance companies will collectively pay $40 million in claims on the loss of a single $400,000 house. The benefits of a $400,000 disaster are magically multiplied by a factor of 100 and transformed into a $40 million disaster - with one family suffering a loss and 100 families experiencing a gain. The losses of the insurance companies don't count, because, in America's capitalist society, they are in the business of writing insurance - and paying claims for losses.
But in today's society, fire is not the only disaster that can be insured against. Of particular interest, default on a home mortgage can be insured against. And possession of an interest in the mortgage or actual risk of financial loss as a result of default is not required in order to purchase the insurance.
In this case also, I can increase my return with an inflated appraisal and decrease my investment by declaring the risk to be minuscule - meaning rated AAA by widely acclaimed rating agencies.
We can now change another assumption. Assume the playing with matches problem is removed and a new problem is substituted. A problem like the husband and wife both having low-paying jobs and no health insurance, coupled with knowledge that many employers refuse to accept illness as a legitimate reason for missing work and have iron-clad policies that require ill workers be fired for failing to report to work.
Or assume both husband and wife have no seniority and work at jobs that may not exist tomorrow because they were shipped overseas last night.
If I knew one or both of them were developing health problems or that one or both were at risk of being laid off, I would see a reasonably good shot at "winning the disaster lottery" so to speak, by buying mortgage default insurance, also known as a credit default swap, on their $400,000 house.
Then I could sit back, relax and wait for the hoped-for and expected misfortune, which will be my good fortune. As could 99 of my gambling buddies.
Back to the neighbor's home that mysteriously burned to the ground. This tragic event is a great deal for me and my 99 gambling buddies. Our biggest risk is that, having paid the insurance premiums, the home stubbornly refuses to burn to the ground.
Being capitalists, we desire to increase the odds that a disastrous fire will occur. My friends and I with fire insurance policies on my neighbor's house have two options for increasing the odds. One, teach the young child the joys and wonders of paying with matches in closets. Two, hire a professional arsonist.
Holders of credit default swaps have similar but more numerous and less risky opportunities to increase their odds of "winning the disaster lottery".
The best way would be use of fine-print, non-understandable escalator clauses that increase the hard-working couple's monthly payments by a factor of two or three. With rampant inflation, confined to core goods that officially "don't count" in Washington, such as $4.00 gasoline, $5.00 milk and $3.00 bread. With rampant if covert support of immigrant labor, legal or otherwise, who are willing to work for less, without any benefits at all, let alone health insurance, thereby increasing the risk of job loss.
We could destroy OSHA, making on-the-job causes of illness and injury more likely. We could buy legislation that benefits pharmaceutical companies while making both medicine and health insurance unaffordable. We could destroy the economy of Main Street, making job loss more likely. The list is extensive, collectively making early default all but inevitable.
That issue addressed, our biggest worry becomes the solvency of the insurance companies. That problem can best be solved by requiring substitution of a "bigger and better" insurance company with deeper pockets.
Purchasing legislation and regulations (or the lack thereof) is the preferred method.
Much more....read the rest
cue the lightning bolts
the only question that matters: is it true?
Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? - Galatians 4:16
From The Geronimo Manifesto:
legal mumbo jumbo
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