Meredith Whitney, the 41 year-old banking analyst and media darling that predicted Citigroup’s insolvency but precious little else, proclaimed just yesterday (August 24, 2011) that Bank of America had no “Mad Dash” need to raise more capital.
So I suppose that’s why Warren Buffett announced plans today to “invest” $5 billion into Bank of America, using preferred warrants similar to those he used when
rescuing investing in Goldman Sachs during the depths of the financial crisis. Buffett claims he conceived of the idea while in the tub yesterday morning, but everyone knows that no one takes baths anymore, so he’s probably just attempting to burnish his image as some kind of freaky combination of Alan Greenspan, Albert Einstein and Gordon Gekko–a creature with mystical insights into managing economic affairs just perfectly for the purpose of reaping rapacious, outsized profits.
Everyone is about now looking for an economic/financial savior. Greenspan was proved a charlatan by the mess he left upon departure. Bernanke’s shown absolutely nothing more creative than turning the printing presses up to eleven. Obama neither studied nor much participated in the US economy over the weaving pathways of his life. Buffett seems to relish the role. Even Obama consulted Buffett recently (and made a big show of having done so), asking his advice while preparing his big economic speech, scheduled for delivery in early September, which will be supposed to make us feel better about where things are heading, but will instead make us feel worse. Buffett is also the Democrat darling, calling for more taxes on millionaires and billionaires like himself, as if self-flagellation before the economic and fiscal gods might appease them.
Alas, feelings and flagellations don’t matter. What matters is whether the individual’s finances are anticipated to get worse or better. Unfortunately, the wizard behind the economic curtain has proved as impotent and illusory as the one in Oz. Neither of the Federal wizard’s twin demons of inflation or fiscal decrepitude have any hope of improving the individual’s finances. The capitalist empire needs growth to sustain it and there is no growth vehicle topping the horizon in any direction. Even Steve Jobs of Apple, who seemed determined to singlehandedly save the economy from its recent troubles, while also providing a meaningful and efficient method for bored Americans to while away the hours of their lives, has given up the fight, announcing his resignation just before the whole thing implodes. Jobs always was a master of timing.
While the trading desk at Bank of America rejoices that Buffett has ridden to their rescue, I’ve got a bit more skeptical view of the matter: If things are so great, then why the celebration at having been rescued? Buffett is worth about $37 billion. The Federal Reserve balance sheet is $3 trillion and counting. The debt is over $14 trillion and counting. This year’s deficit will top $1.3 trillion. Unless Buffett can do like Jesus with the fishes and loaves, feeding several trillion dollars worth of debt with his few billions, we need to find another savior.