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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Monday, January 09, 2012

What? No Credit Default Swaps?

Somebody, after watching one of the numerous debates that have been waged by the varying numbers of aspiring Republican candidates, said nothing except to ask with a dazed expression on her face, "Do these men know that they are running to be the President of the United States?"

The economy is supposed to be the No. 1 issue by far during this election go-around, yet these guys (and the former gal) deal with it only to say, in lock step and with stupendous unity that the economy is ruined and it is all President Obama's fault, even while their party, especially in the U.S. Congress, has strived with might and main to keep the economy in that parlous state, so as to try to get their own people into the Oval Office this year. And nothing illustrates this point better than to note how rarely their Presidential wanna-be's have so much as mentioned credit default swaps. Maybe it's because there's nothing that people such as these fear more than to be so much as asked to explain what a credit default swap is.

I could not write a book, or maybe even one lucid paragraph myself as to what they are, because they are a mystery that is so closely held that even the various explanations that you will read, written by people who supposedly know all about whereof they speak, are nevertheless still heavily draped with murk and outright foolishness. Maybe this is because actually they make no sense at all. But as nearly as I can gather, they're a form of insurance or a wager, that a mortgage or some other loan or some such will or will not be paid off, and, presumably if it is not paid off in time, then the holder of that mortgage will see his bet paid off by somebody.

It seems to me that just as being able to sell mortgages to others who are unknown to the original mortgagee should be outlawed, so all these tools of financial infamy called "derivatives," especially credit default swaps, should be similarly declared to be crimes against humanity. But instead they became well-known for being among the chief tools of infamy during the Great GWBush Stickup of 2008, an act of terrorism inflicted on the U.S. by the big bankers and other financial villains, though it is more politely called by the more callous or less informed of the experts among us the "T.A.R.P. Bailout" -- a dumb name and an insult to all tarps everywhere, those highly useful and protective sheets of canvas or plastic. Because it appears that a great deal of all those trillions of dollars extorted from the taxpayers went to pay off the holders of these credit default swaps and other financial wagers that weren't in any way necessary or beneficial to anyone except those secret gamblers and that no one, least of all the original borrowers, asked them to make.

So what do these Repub candidates kept saying instead? While never telling exactly how, they lay the Stickup and that whole financial collapse of 2008 not at the feet of their own man, GWBush, in whose name the whole mess got started, during the eight years of his two terms. Instead they would have everyone believe that B. Obama is to be blamed instead, despite all his efforts to turn things around, which they are so loathe to see and which their side has resisted with all the dodges at their command.

I wish I could attend one of those debates and become one of the favored few who get to ask the candidates a question -- the question that so far no one has had the temerity to ask, even though it ranks in importance far above all those endless wrangles on issues that shouldn't even be issues, especially the ones that involve matters that shouldn't even be under the purview of the Government, with a woman's God-given right to decide for herself whether or not to have an abortion being the first of those -- a situation that should never be put in the hands of old men of any stripe who are so far beyond all the complexities of child birth and child rearing.

"Sir," I would ask (while trying my best to avoid putting into that word any inflection of respect that in no way exists in my case), I think that, instead of dealing with all this trite, inconsequential stuff, and instead getting on to the meat of the biggest issue, the wounded economy and how it got to this state, the American people would be better served if you, for instance, could tell us just what you intend to do about outlawing credit default swaps. And first of all, would you please enlighten us, in clear, intelligible language, on exactly what a credit default swap is."

Despite all those millions of dollars that most of these candidates possess, with the frontrunner, G. Romney being in the lead, I'll bet that this question would drop on those devils like a thunderbolt and cause all kinds of choking and sputtering, even if they had known days in advance that it was coming. Talking about credit default swaps must be akin to talking about the toilet habits of Jesus Christ.

R. Perry, with R. Santorum the most hapless of the Repub candidates still standing, calls the Social Security system a Ponzi scheme. But it's criminal even to speak of Ponzi schemes without bringng up credit default swaps first and foremost. Before the Great Stickup it was estimated that all the swaps floating around amounted to 681 trillion dollars. That is many times more money than all the countries in the world could put their hands on at one time, or at any time! And because credit default swaps have been quietly ignored instead of being dumped, that situation could be even worse these days.


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