With last week’s unprecedented government bail out of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the United States and the financial world are finding ways to avoid further meltdown in Wall Street. Spooked by financial uncertainties, money institutions are finding ways to avert market collapse.
American International Group Inc. (AIG,) the largest insurance company of the world, suffered losses as its shares fell down 92% after fool-heartedly insuring risky bonds. The Federal Reserve had to loan $85 billion to save the company from financial ruin which could disrupt markets and put the economy in jeopardy if its losses aren’t contained. This is in addition to the Treasury Department’s commitment to infuse up to about $100 billion in funds to the Fannies, America’s top mortgage lenders to keep them from going insolvent. Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns, and Washington Mutual suffer money problems too, feeding uncertainty, confusion, fear and distrust in the banking system. At this point it is unclear whether these measures will reverse the on-going bleeding in the market.
To where this economic woes will end is anybody’s guess. For ordinary citizens, the uncertainties that shake the market bring new realities and offer opportunities to reassess where their investments will go. In spite of their efforts to improve their finances, people have been gripped with scary concerns about jobs, higher taxes, social security, healthcare, retirement and the future in
The financial crisis had been predicted since the Clinton administration. When the stock market slumped in 2000, the housing market boom that followed built unrealistic expectations and over-taxed the lending system. After a long run of profitable home buying and selling, prices slumped in 2006 and continued to the fall thereafter. In the midst of mounting mortgage debts, many borrowers were unable to pay their loans, forcing them to default. The accrued losses quickly mounted, triggering the current financial crisis.
The crisis caused by multifactorial reasons didn’t happen overnight and the blame is shared in many fronts. Corporate greed of Wall Street is partly responsible. CEO’s and money managers, pandering on their interests, rake astronomical profits in overseeing stocks and investment funds to the disadvantage of regular shareholders. Government regulators were remiss in protecting the public when they did little to restrict flagrant money lending schemes and shady business deals of corrupt opportunists.
The Congress on the other hand had been slow in updating the laws that regulate the business of Wall Street. Loans in banks were approved by mortgage lenders in spite of the borrower’s questionable ability to pay. The bullish optimism among house-buyers had caught them ill-prepared for the ups and downs of the market. Investigation and prosecution of corporate malfeasance and abuses had been inadequate.
To promote stability, the government has little choice but to bail-out the floundering companies at the expense of tax payers. To clean up the mess, it has to recognize the weaknesses and failures of the system that lacks oversight. With a huge trade deficit, America needs a correction and tougher regulations in the financial markets to avoid further damage to the economy.
The adverse effects of this economic downturn have serious repercussions on the economies abroad. There is volatility of stocks traded abroad. There is worry across Europe, Asia and Russia. If the confidence to USA’s financial institutions weakens or altogether lost, economies worldwide will suffer affecting the most, the poorest nations.
Taxpayers, shareholders of investments and portfolio owners have to foot the bills to keep the economy going. They scramble for solutions to counter depreciation of homes and restore confidence in doing business. They need to bring back the profits in the stock market, lower the cost of borrowing, and stimulate the growth of businesses.
Yet new policies instituted by the emergence of global economy stand on the way. Saddled with debts and the on-going war on terrorism, the US finds itself in weaker economic footing now than in the past. If the American economy suffers further and reversal of the financial turmoil comes late, a possible worldwide recession can result to social and political instability.
The lessons learned from past hardships—the great depression and the world wars however make Americans resilient and hopeful. As they watch the events unfold, they try to find a wiggle room to solve their problems to escape the worst. The Bush administration is doing unprecedented measures to do just that, though its choices for solution are pretty limited. Photo Credits: Gingerbugjones; BeebsandChi; Steely.scott)=0=