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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review March 30, 2009 / 5 Nissan 5769

Geithner treads a line between financial paralysis and populist resentment

By Robert J. Samuelson


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Call it Uncle Sam's hedge fund. The rescue of the American financial system proposed by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is, in all but name, a gigantic hedge fund. The government would lend vast sums to private investors to enable them to buy loss-ridden assets at discounts from banks with the prospect of making sizable profits. If that's not a hedge fund, what would be? The hope is that the $14 trillion U.S. banking system would expand lending if it could get rid of many of the lousy securities and loans already on its books.


Almost everyone thinks that a healthier banking system is necessary for a sustained economic recovery. Can the Geithner plan work? Maybe, though obstacles abound. One is political. Private investors may balk at participating because they fear populist wrath. If the plan succeeds, many wealthy people will become even wealthier. Congress could subject them (or their firms) to humiliating hearings or punitive taxes. Why bother? Another problem: Investors and banks may be unable to agree on prices at which assets would be bought.


But succeed or fail, Geithner's plan illuminates a fascinating irony. "Leverage" — borrowing — helped create this mess. Now it's expected to get us out. How can this be? It's not as crazy as it sounds. Start with the basics on how leverage affects investment returns.


Suppose you bought a stock or bond for $100 in cash. If the price rises to $110, you make 10 percent. Not bad. Now, assume that you borrowed $90 of the purchase price at a 5 percent interest rate. Over a year, the stock or bond still increases to $110, but now you've made more than 50 percent. You pay $4.50 in interest and pocket a $5.50 gain on your $10 investment. Note, however, that if the price fell to $95, you'd be virtually wiped out ($4.50 in interest paid plus $5 lost on the security).


Economist John Geanakoplos of Yale University argues that the economy regularly experiences "leverage cycles." When credit is easy, down payment terms are loose. Investors or homeowners can borrow much of the purchase price of houses and securities. Prices of assets (stocks, bonds, real estate) rise, often to artificial levels because investment returns are so attractive. But when credit tightens — government policy shifts or lenders get nervous — the process reverses. Prices crash. Leveraged investors sell to repay loans. New borrowers face stiff down payment terms.


To Geanakoplos, we're suffering the harshest leverage cycle since World War II. Three years ago, he says, homebuyers could put down 5 percent or less. Now they've got to advance 20 percent or more. Hedge funds, private equity funds and investment banks could often borrow 90 percent of security purchases; now borrowing can be 10 percent or less. "Deleveraging" has caused prices to plunge to lows that may be as unrealistic as previous highs.


Grasping this, you can understand the idea behind Geithner's hedge fund. It is to inject more leverage into the economy — not to previous giddy levels but enough to reverse the panic-driven price collapse. Details remain unsettled, but the plan would allow 6-1 leverage ratios in some cases. Here's an example. Private investors put up $5; the Treasury matches that with another $5. This equity investment could then be expanded by $60 of government-guaranteed loans. The entire $70 could be used to buy assets from banks.


Sounds simple. In practice, it won't be. Given all the deleveraging — a record 15 percent of hedge funds closed last year — the market prices of many securities have been driven well below prices that seem justified by long-term cash flows. Geanakoplos mentions one mortgage bond whose market value has dropped by roughly 40 percent even though all promised payments have been made and, based on the performance of the underlying mortgage borrowers, seem likely to continue.


If banks sold this and similar credits at today's market prices, they would have to record huge losses. ("Banks Face Big Writedowns in Toxic Asset Plan," headlined the Financial Times.) Their capital would be depleted, and they'd have to raise more or request more from the government. Presumably, the government-supplied leverage would enable investors to pay higher prices. After all, that's the purpose. Still, whether sellers and buyers ultimately agree on prices is unclear.


If they can't, Geithner's hedge fund will remain puny. Cautious banks will continue to constrict credit. But success also poses problems. Money managers talk about making huge annual returns of 20 percent or more from a scheme in which government puts up most of the funds and takes most of the risk. A political backlash might squash the project before it starts. Geithner treads a narrow line between financial paralysis and populist resentment.

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Comment on Robert J. Samuelson's column by clicking here.


03/23/09: American Capitalism Besieged
01/06/09: The limits of pump priming
12/29/08: Humbled By Our Ignorance
07/31/08: The homeownership obsession
07/24/08: A Depression? Hardly
07/17/08: Why isn't globalization making the interconnected world more stable?



© 2009, WPWG

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