Monday, November 10, 2008

Who's next in line for bailouts?

It's Bailout, Baby, Bailout.

First we saw $168 billion stimulus package giving tax rebates, then $29 billion to J.P. Morgan Chase, a $300 billion "housing rescue" in July, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac taken over in September, the AIG $85 billion bailout, then finally the enormous $850B "stimulus package". Now we have the auto makers snuggling up to the government teet.

These have been called only the tip of the iceberg. So who's next on this list? Here's a few of my guesses:

  1. Telecommunications companies: These are totally debt-based businesses. And if the politicians can argue that GM is "too big to fail" they certainly won't let the phones go dead (or the Internet stop working). They will fork over the cash when told by the new Ma Bell.
  2. Commercial real estate: The focus so far has been on residential real estate and to be fair, it probably is the primary culprit behind the banking mess. However, the amount of commercial properties taken over by banks through foreclosures is up and banks are becoming more aware of the magnitude of the trouble in commercial real estate loans.
  3. Insurance companies: AIG is not the only insurance company in trouble. The entire industry is imploding. Questions continue over capital adequacy, credit downgrades, uncertainty on future portfolio write-downs, and potential cash calls on CDS and other obligations.
  4. States: With big budget shortfalls, some states (such as California looking at a $22 billion dollar shortfall) will certainly try to play the "too big to fail" card and take their seat at the federal trough.
  5. Satellite radio: Hey why not. This is of course a terrible idea. But when has that ever stopped politicians? And as long as Uncle Sam is handing out cash...

There are probably countless other industries that will try to get while the getting is good and jump on the bailout bandwagon. Who knows how far it will go? Who can blame them for not wanting a share of the bailout pie?

It's like paying off one credit card with another credit card. And of course propping up failing companies like GM and Ford who can't compete naturally, shows the world how strong America is, right?

We need to put an end to it, but you already knew I was going say that. The far better strategy is to let them fail (or recover) on their own.

0 comments: