Comrade Bernanke Does it Again
by Peter Schiff 09-17-08
By nationalizing nearly 80% of AIG for $85 billion, the Fed is doing a lot more than simply flushing taxpayer money down the toilet. The greater wrong is allowing the agency that has the power to print money to take control of a private enterprise, especially without the approval of the company's shareholders. The move represents the largest lurch toward socialism that this country has ever seen, and signals the end of the vibrancy of America's once vaunted free market economy. Since there is no limit to the amount of money the Fed can create, there is no limit to the number of assets they can acquire.
The "line in the sand" that the Government seemed to draw by refusing to bail out Lehman Brothers was erased in just two days by the very next wave of financial panic.
While Fannie and Freddie were arguably quasi-government agencies that deserved special protection, no such status exists with AIG. Where does the Fed get the authority to use the money it prints to take over private companies? Congress never gave such authority and, even if it had, it would be unconstitutional, as Congress itself has no such authority to delegate. What about the shareholders? Why didn't they get to vote on this acquisition? Whatever happened to private property rights?
Where does this stop? What other troubled companies will the Fed nationalize, and how much will it cost? Why stop at troubled companies? If the Fed can buy into a sick company, why not a healthy one? Now that we have allowed the Fed to take over any asset it wants, private property rights are meaningless. When oil prices get really high, why bother with a windfall profits tax when the Fed can simply nationalize Exxon-Mobil with a few cranks on its printing press. Who needs Bolsheviks when you have the Fed?
AIG is not a bank; it is not even an investment bank. The "lender of last resort" power was supposed to apply only to banks, to prevent runs. It was not meant to apply to any company that had been declared "too big to fail".
I suppose the Fed is trying to get around some of the more obvious illegalities by having the new AIG shares issued on behalf of the Treasury. What happened to the concept of an independent Fed? Here you have the Fed seizing a private company and ceding control to the U.S. Treasury. Rather then acting independently, the Fed and the Government are merely partners in crime.
On the economic side, the Fed expects us to believe this is a smart investment. Does anyone really think that officials at the Fed and Treasury are suddenly private equity experts? These are the guys who missed both the tech and housing bubbles, and who assured us that subprime problems were contained. I would not trust them to run a lemonade stand, let alone one of the largest insurance companies in the world.
The idea that this bailout was necessary given that the alternative would be worse should by now be fully discredited. All of today's financial problems are the direct consequence of Fed policy that was designed to weaken the recession that followed the bursting of the tech bubble and the shock of September 11th. Of course, the tech bubble itself resulted from the Fed's actions to sooth the pain following the collapse of LTCM, the Russian debt default, the Asian crisis, and Y2K.
I suppose the precedent for all of these actions was established back in 1979 when the government guaranteed Chrysler's debt. It sure would have been a lot better and a whole lot cheaper if we had simply let Chrysler fail. The road to financial hell, or in this case socialism, is certainly paved with "good" intentions. Today's historic surge inthe price of gold shows that at least a few investors are refusing to march in the parade.