Better than a lottery
Commentary by Jeff Burgar
Did most of us miss our chance to be multi-millionaires?
While we were minding our nickels and dimes, a few hundred thousand people or so were cashing in zillions of dollars.
Just in the past year, anybody who owned a house saw their net worth increase by half or more. Since it was that easy, smart people kept adding to their real estate. They bought another house, and another house, and another house. Really smart people found borrowing money so easy, they just kept on borrowing.
Gosh, how could anybody go wrong?
The really, really smart people packaged up all those loans just ordinary smart people took out.
Then, they sold those loans to other people. And those other people sold those loans to other people. The stuff ended up on the stock market with labels like Triple A credit - apparently as good as General Electric and almost as good as the government of Canada.
Stock market players, or, as they fancied themselves, “investors’’ had a fine time buying and selling all this paper stuff.
They went further. They bought and sold shares in the companies buying and selling this paper stuff. And bought and sold the banks who were buying and selling the paper stuff too.
Gosh, the commissions alone for top dealers in these products were ten, twenty and fifty million a year! And the bonuses at the banks for managers? Heck, $125 million. $160 million. More! Just no end to it.
Now, in a perfect world, the chickens all come home to roost.
These days, in this so called “credit crunch’’ and “housing crisis’’ in the States, some chickens did roost.
People are getting fired. Sometimes 1,000 or more at a crack. Even the bosses get canned.
But, nobody is giving back their bonuses. Nobody is giving back their commissions.
The fortune making machine happened. It wasn’t illegal. It wasn’t crooked. It wasn’t even immoral.
It was just business as usual.
So there you go. We all should have borrowed to the hilt to buy a house and a couple of condos. Then used those assets to borrow a million or so. Then used the million or so to borrow ten million. And watched it grow and grow. The sky was the limit.
Unfortunately, when those chickens came home, if I was still in “business’’ I would likely have lost it all. Much better, I would say, to be in the “business’’ of being on the inside, selling paper to people on the outside like me.
They might fire me, but they will never ask for the bonuses and commissions back. No matter how flawed the crap I was selling.
I can go to jail for selling toxic waste to unsuspecting fools. Toxic paper?
Lots of people don’t even know what it is.
In the finance world, just business as usual.
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