18 June 2011

Iceland, Sweden, Ireland, States

Couple items in the news caught my eye recently: Iceland issuing sovereign debt for the first time since Global Financial Meltdown, and Sweden's moving "to the right" politically.

Iceland's response to their financial institutions was effectively to let them fail, defaulting on their debts, and making whole only domestic savings. There's a nice article summing it up in the wsj. Since then, Iceland's been doing really well. Economy is good, they've maintained social services and a decent standard of living. A success story. And kind of the way it should work. Why should Icelandic taxpayers have had to make good on investments sold by private-sector Icelandic banks and bought by punters in the UK and elsewhere? The US approach to bailing out banks and anyone who owed sufficiently large sums to Goldman Sachs protected shareholders and executives but royally screwed over the US public by socializing the losses.

Ireland is totally screwed since they took the polar opposite approach. They are also shackled to EUR. If Ireland's immediate response had been to wipe out shareholders, abandon the Euro, and take a more Icelandic approach, maybe we'd be seeing positive stories there, too. (And Greece should simply have defaults long ago.)

Sweden's response in the early 90s to a similar banking crisis was to bailout the banks but only in exchange for ownership. So the shareholders got hurt and the public benefited. This was suggested as a course of action for the US during GFM but it did not mesh with the paradigm of private profits, public losses, so was not even seriously considered. How's Sweden been doing? Been doing really well!

I'm curious to see if the recent "right turn" of Sweden is going to get more play in the US. It would make a good sound bite for right-wing talking heads. Be sure to leave out the part that a Sweden run by a "conservative" coalition is still the Tea Party's second-worst nightmare of social safety nets and public services. (Ranking just behind a worst nightmare of a global Caliphate that sells your guns to fund mandatory gay marriage.)


JustJoeP said...

I knew when I read that Geithner had Goldball Sacks, Shitty Bank, and Skank of America on speed dial after getting out of each cabinet meeting, that the US tax payer was going to be holding a very wet, soggy bag of fecal matter.

I understand GS is heavily invested in Greek debt.. but they (of course) hedged all their bets with AIG-like insurance. Wish there was some way that both Greece and GS could fail together.

pyker said...

I think GS did some dodgy cross ccy swaps with Greece that allowed Greece to take on more debt without telling anyone. Then shorted greek debt in the sovereign CDS market. My guess is that either GS is net flat Greek debt or they are net short, but who knows.