Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Madoff -- How Could This Happen?

How Madoff cost my family a job, a 401(k) and a worthy cause - MarketWatch

Every time I read about Bernie Madoff and the $50 Billion Ponzi scheme, I'm reminded of Social Security and Medicare and the $50-$100 Trillion dollar US Government Ponzi scheme that we really ought to all understand by now if we believe we are capable of governing ourselves. The reason that most people don't is the same as the reason that Madoff took in so many people--they want to believe!!! The idea that 70%+ of the people can live a better retirement than their lifetime earnings, tax payments, and CERTAINLY their savings would allow is just too enticing to look at the facts.

One of the reasons for the 30's depression was that "everyone thought they could get rich" by relatively easy investment means. Up until the last couple years, everyone thought they could "retire rich". Add together the stock market gains to the big Social Security and Medicare payments and we could ALL retire with "well above average assets". Sort of the exact analogue to Lake Woebegon where "all the children are above average".

Note that nobody has responsibility to check even the most basic things about their investements, all the "fault" is with the guys that do the Ponzi schemes. Is that true of Social Security and Medicare as well? We will "blame the government" when it doesn't conjure the benefits that are based on assumptions of like expectancy and work force growth that have been known to be totally wrong for a long time.

Sure, guys like Madoff are charlatans, but are they really greater charlatans than Democrats that have been running on "change" since '06 without telling what they are delivering? Losing $50 billion is small potatos next to the TRILLIONS that are being poured down rat holes right now. Yes, yes, they are Democrats, so they carefully cover their tracks with "Bush" and cover from a few Republicans still in power, but isn't it clear to people yet where the real power is in Washington? CONGRESS!!

Who is it that has controlled congress since '06? Didn't they promise "change" in '06? And change we have gotten -- sub-prime loan expansion and finally explosion, "stimulus packages" that were really naked transfers from higher earners to lower earners. The Democrat promise is to reward failure and tax success, so they are always able to get less success and more failure. The "stimulus" was nothing but a reward to those that make less than a certain amount of money -- you are rewarded for making less, if you make more, you get no reward -- in fact, it is made clear that the intent is to penalize you as soon as politically feasible.

So, we have a crash, and when we have a crash, what John Kenneth Galbraith called "the bezzle" comes out. Guys like Madoff (or Enron for that matter) and a whole bunch of others do GREAT as long as everything goes up. If things go down, the loss of the "shady billions" makes the bad situation worse much as it made the good situation SEEM better on the way up. The money Madoff "had" was double counted -- he claimed to have it, and all his investors thought they had it as well. Really, like the value of over inflated homes and stocks, it only existed as long as the confidence was there. That is why they call a lot of swindles "confidence games".

Now, the confidence is fast being unwound from the worldwide financial and business systems, and we have an incoming president that is a complete blank slate -- Bzero. Fed funds rate at zero, short term treasuries at zero -- how many zeros are we going to go for here?

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