Published On: Wed, Mar 7th, 2012

Swamp Gas: Notes From DC

#1 Smoot-Hawley Redo

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is obligated to review and “score” the financial consequences of any proposed legislation. It came out with a report on H.R. 4105. The title page of the Bill:

This legislation is about tariffs on China. The CBO concluded that the US Treasury will collect $160 billion over the next ten years if the law is passed. That may sound good to some; I see it as a disaster in the making. If H.R. 4105 passes, it will cost the country Trillions. The history books say that is so.

H.R. 4105 “Applies the duty provisions of the Tariff Act of 1930.” The 1930 legislation that H.R. 4105 is relying on has a different name in the history books. It is called the Smoot-Hawley legislation. It was the dumbest legislation that could have been passed. It insured that America would remain stuck in a depression for another four years.

Smoot-Hawley worked as intended. From 1930 to 1934 imports fell by 65%. But damn near every trading partner, including England and Canada, retaliated by putting up their own tariffs. The depression spun around the globe as a result.

This time around will be no different. China will retaliate. Too bad the guys in D.C. don’t read history books.

#2 Stupid Proposal

The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) decided to try to get Edward DeMarco, the Acting Director of FHFA fired:

The CPC has a point. Edward DeMarco is preventing Fannie and Freddie (F/F) from intering into massive write-downs of mortgages. If it were not for DeMarco, Obama would have done this a year ago.

Fannie and Freddie are sitting on (at least) three million underwater mortgages. Assuming the average size is $250k,  and being under water by 30%, the cost of the write-downs would be $250 billion. That’s massive. But we spent $900b on the banks, the Iraq – Afghanistan wars have cost $1.5 Trillion, spending of Social Security will top $700B this year. The one time charge on ~60% of all underwater mortgages is not so big compared to those other numbers.

But where is the “fairness” in this proposal? The $250b is just more borrowed money. This plan passes the buck to the next generation when the debt comes due. What about the 40% who don’t have a mortgage with F/F? What about renters?  Have they no rights at all?

The CPC will fail. DeMarco is sticking around until December. But if Obama wins big, and the Senate turns a deeper Blue, then DeMarco will be sacked. A “more friendly” Director of the FHFA will be installed.

This is an emotive topic. I’m interested in your thoughts. So are the “watchers” in D.C.

#3 Crony Capitalism

These charts shows where the $24B of federal subsidies to energy projects went in 2011 and comparisons over the past 35 years:


With his focus on alternative energy,Obama has ramped this number up to levels not seen before.

This strategy is a payoff to environmentalists. Obama will tout his spending record this fall. This is a “positive” message; and will probably get him votes.

The flip side is that many of the alternative energy investments are connected to characters that are having swell parties to raise money for O. Think Solyndra.

When Obama does play the “I’m green” card, the Republican PACs will have a field day. The ads won’t stop. We might see the “ugliest” election in history.

About the Author

- Bruce Krasting has been writing for the professional press for the last five years and has been on the Fox Business channel several times as a guest describing his written work. In January 2009, he started writing his blog, Bruce Krasting. From 1990-1995 he ran a private hedge fund in Greenwich Ct. called Falconer Limited. Investments were driven by macro developments.They expressed their views in global bonds, currencies, stocks, commodities and derivatives. He closed the fund and retired in 1995. Bruce has also been employed by Drexel Burnham Lambert, Citicorp, Credit Suisse and Irving Trust Corp. He hold a bachelor's degree in economics from Ithaca College and currently lives in Westchester, NY. We are very happy that Bruce has allowed us to post his articles here on These New Times, and we think you'll agree that his insights are detailed and often brilliant and he has a easy, readable style. You can read his blog everyday here