But, pontificating aside, the reality is that we had a large scale grand robbery of the past few years. To make it simple: the Fed printed money, gave it for free to rich people, who lent it to poor people at at nice profit instead of paying them wages; reimbursement was possible only if house prices went up, and that lasted for a while. The rich made out like bandits on their assets, financial or otherwise, and the poor thought they were more or less keeping up with the Joneses (the reality was a large-scale transfer of wealth from one group to the other, no bonus points for guessing which was which). Now that it’s no longer the case, the poor lose their house, stop paying their debt at some point, put the banks in a pickles, and the economy unravels. Except that the banks are being bailed out, which means, fundamentally, saving the owners of financial assets (bank bondholders specifically, and bond holders in general) at the expense of taxpayers, thus having the goverment validate and consolidate the past transfer of wealth.
So leverage is the central problem … or rather, the central problems:
- For those looking to hold onto their ill-gotten gains, how to maintain the maximum amount of wealth while they deleverage, which means how to convert what was always in a large part fantasy wealth into actual claims on actual productive capacity
- For the other 99% of us, how to prevent those who obtained fantasy wealth from converting it into real wealth at our expense