Friday, January 25, 2013

Does the 0.1% finally realize how badly they screwed up?

Does the super-elite finally realize that lowering living standards for working families was a huge mistake?

The Naked Capitalist thinks maybe they do. Linking to a Guardian piece titled "Denial, panic and doubt in Davos," she writes,
The 0.1% may be recognizing how badly they’ve screwed up.
The Guardian was reporting on the grim mood at the annual gathering of the global power elite during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. There is a "nagging concern" that business conditions won't improve any time soon, according to a survey of the attendees by the PWC consulting firm. The Guardian notes that austerity is killing jobs and commerce in Europe, India struggles with inflation, U.S. radicals are trying to cut Social Security and Medicare and Japan may trigger a currency war.

The Guardian notes the prospect of a double-dip global recession:
This also comes as no surprise. Businesses will only invest if they perceive growing demand for their goods and services. But the dilemma for the CEOs gathered in Davos is that the policies they have championed in the past – fiscal austerity, weaker trade unions, aggressive cost cutting – have hammered consumer spending. In the past, spending could be supported by rising household debt, but the banks don't want to lend and consumers don't want to borrow. 
This is a recipe for continued economic torpor. Three things would help: fixing the banks, a reining back of austerity and a new social compact to ensure that productivity gains are once again shared by capital and labour.
Fixing the banks was actually raised at Davos by hedge fund manager Paul Singer.

We just hate, hate, hate to side with him, but he was right to chastise JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon. Singer complained big banks like JPMorgan don't come clean about their risky investments.

(We don't like Singer for a lot of reasons. One, his hedge fund got $12.9 billion from U.S. taxpayers to keep alive a company it owned, Delphi, as part of the auto bailout. Then he moved the company to China. Plus he funds the vast right-wing conspiracy.)

The Financial Times reports on the Singer-Dimon exchange:
Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, clashed with a leading hedge fund investor over whether big banks are too opaque during the opening session of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. 
Unbowed after a year in which severe problems of risk management at JPMorgan were revealed, Mr Dimon rebuffed criticism from Paul Singer, head of Elliott Capital Management, that banks made “completely opaque” disclosures. 
Mr Singer said the unfathomable nature of banks’ public accounts made it impossible to know which were “actually risky or sound”.
Singer is right. It's especially outrageous for Dimon of all people to defend current risk-management practices. His bank is being investigated for its failure to control risk in a deal (called "London Whale") that went spectacularly awry. JPMorgan originally reported it would lose $2 billion from the transaction, but the final size of the loss is expected to be much, much bigger. From the beginning, Dimon misrepresented the size of the loss as soon as the press got wind of it.

The global elite has more than a few reasons to be worried.