Whitehall Street, Atlanta. Black Union soldier posted at slave auction house during General Sherman's occupation of the city in the fall of 1864.
Ilargi: They had us all fooled there, didn’t they? Don’t be too hard on yourself, we all thought that Washington was discussing the economy. We were all wrong. They are talking about the laws of physics.
Later today, the US Senate will vote on a proposal to suspend gravity. For pigs.
Rumor has it that there is a bi-partisan effort going on, as we speak, to assess whether lipstick looks good on sheep. If the test turns out successful, gravity for them will also be lifted.
The reasoning behind the plan is that it will allow the government to make Americans believe that pigs can fly.
Once they believe that, the sky, obviously, is the limit. It is now widely understood that before the elections, all graphs pertaining to the US government and financial institutions will under law have to be viewed upside down. In addition, the Federal Reserve has demanded all red ink will be changed to black, and vice versa. Since the need for red ink has grown exponentially, and shortages are foreseen, all involved agree that this is a great idea.
Banks will be allowed to hold zero reserves. For the sake of fairness, the same will apply to all citizens. To stimulate acceptance of the new zero line, all deposits will be removed from bank accounts. After all, they won’t be needed anymore.
In return for their deposits, Americans will receive a computer model developed by a renowned Wall Street investment bank that will let them set a value of their choice for all assets they own.
Since the only thing really wrong with the economy is sentiment, the fact that every US citizen will live in a marked-to-model million dollar home by Christmas has raised expectations for the holiday shopping season to new record levels.
In initial talks, Europe is reported to be enthousiastic about the new legislation, though there are worries among French and German politicians that the population in their countries will be harder to convince that lipstick does indeed look good on sheep.
China is expected to be a harder sell. Since the Chinese eat far more pork per capita, there would be an unfair disadvantage for them related to the time spent trying to catch the pigs. Negotiations are ongoing.
Regulators Ease Securities-Valuation Rules
The Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. accounting-standard setter issued guidance that will allow companies to use more flexibility when valuing securities in a market that has dried up, a move the banking industry hopes will relieve pressure on company balance sheets.
Tuesday, the SEC and Financial Accounting Standards Board issued "clarification" to accounting rules that require companies to value securities at the price for which they can be sold in the market, known as mark-to-market, or fair value, accounting. FASB said it is preparing additional guidance for later this week.
The clarifications allow executives to use their own financial models and judgment if no market exists or if assets are being sold only at fire-sale prices. They were welcomed by banking and financial-services groups that have lobbied the SEC and FASB to change the rules. Those efforts were ramped up in recent days as Congress was drafting a rescue bill.
Because of the credit crunch, the industry has said both the accounting treatment and how it is interpreted by auditors was too conservative and resulted in losses at financial institutions that were bigger than they should have been. They said the rules forced companies to write down assets tied to companies that had no chance of defaulting largely because there were few buyers or sellers.
The move Tuesday addressed many of their concerns. The SEC and FASB stopped short of bowing to pressure from some lawmakers and lobbyists who were seeking a complete suspension of fair-value accounting. Congressional leaders are considering codifying the SEC's move in a new version of the legislation the Senate could vote on Wednesday.
The SEC and FASB, along with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, have objected to suspending fair-value accounting since it would make a company's position harder for investors to judge and would also likely postpone banks from taking their losses.
Mutual Distrust Freezes Lending Among Banks
At the core of the financial crisis is a simple problem: Banks don't fully trust each other. So they hoard cash and only lend to each other if the borrowing bank pays enough to justify the risk. The best indicator of the simmering interbank distrust is an obscure-sounding interest rate known as Libor, which is flashing red. Libor, or the London interbank offered rate, is the rate that banks worldwide charge each other for short-term loans.
Yesterday, the annualized rate for those overnight loans spiked by more than four percentage points, to 6.9 percent, its highest level ever. Normally, Libor on dollar loans is not much higher than what it costs the U.S. government to borrow short-term money, which yesterday was nearly zero.
That tells experts that banks around the world are basically unwilling to lend to each other at any price. It means that cash is not flowing to places that need it. And, if sustained, would ultimately lead to higher borrowing costs for ordinary U.S. households and businesses.
"The interbank markets are a fundamental part of the plumbing of the financial world," Dennis Lockhart, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, said in a speech yesterday. Many variable-rate mortgages, corporate loans, and other forms of debt adjust relative to Libor.
"This contraction in availability and rise of the cost of credit have worsened . . . for corporate and business borrowers," Lockhart said. "We've heard anecdotes confirming this from contacts throughout the Southeast. In short, Main Street is being affected." When the Federal Reserve lowers the interest rate it directly controls, it helps stimulate the economy. But the rise in Libor, economists say, is likely to have the opposite effect, slowing the economy at the worst possible time.
The high lending rate reflects banks' fears: They have no confidence that the other guy will be able to pay the money back, even when the loan is only for a single day. "There's just an environment of distrust right now, and that's the core of this entire crisis," said Ward McCarthy, managing director of Stone & McCarthy Research Associates. "These anxieties have to be relieved and a level of confidence has to return for us to get out of this."
The difficulties in the lending market between banks both result from, and can exaggerate, the crisis. The banks from which people are withdrawing money have the greatest need to borrow cash from other firms, yet the breakdown in that lending market makes it all the more likely that they won't be able to get such loans, and thus increase the chances that they fail.
The problem appears to be most severe among European banks. In the United States, bank regulators have been aggressive about engineering buyouts of troubled banks -- most notably Washington Mutual and Wachovia -- without wiping out their lenders. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve has taken aggressive steps to try to flood U.S. banks with cash. Last Wednesday, the Fed had $189 billion in loans out to banks for that purpose, and Monday it announced an expansion of those efforts. "On the domestic side, the Fed has absolutely opened the floodgates," McCarthy said.
But the market for cash among banks is global, and in Europe, government interventions have been unpredictable, with different countries taking different tacks to try to prevent a spiraling crisis in the financial system. Ireland yesterday, for example, effectively put a government guarantee behind its biggest banks for the next two years, while authorities in France, Belgium and Luxembourg injected $9.4 billion into Dexia, a bank that operates in the three nations.
"Does an Italian bank trust a Spanish bank?" asked Albert Kyle, a finance professor at the University of Maryland. "Not as much as a U.S. bank trusts another U.S. bank." The Fed has also taken novel steps to try to inject dollars into foreign banks, though so far it apparently hasn't been enough to settle the lending environment among them. Monday, it said it would expand those steps, such that foreign central banks will have access to $620 billion to try to inject dollars into the banks in their respective countries
Congress, White House Weigh Increase in Deposit Insurance
Congress and the Bush administration are hashing out an agreement to raise the level of consumers' bank deposits guaranteed by the government, an idea they hope might bring enough support to revive President George W. Bush's planned rescue of financial markets.
The Senate will vote on a new version of the rescue bill Wednesday if a compromise can be reached on this and other issues. Congressional leaders expect the vote could build momentum for passage of the bill in the House, which stunned Washington Monday by rejecting the $700 billion banking-rescue package.
Congressional leaders were also considering changing an accounting rule known as "mark to market" that some lawmakers blame for the financial system's volatility. The legislation would back up the Securities and Exchange Commission, which Tuesday gave companies more leeway to figure out the value of assets for which there are no buyers. Other possible additions: jobless benefits and homeowner tax breaks.
The move to boost deposit-insurance limits, which the White House has raised with industry players, received a boost Tuesday when presidential candidates Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama endorsed the idea. Both candidates planned to return to Washington Wednesday for the possible Senate vote. Sheila Bair, chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which oversees the program, said she would support temporarily raising the coverage.
"I'm willing to do this given the exigencies we're looking at," said Sen. Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. "This is a matter I normally want to give a lot more consideration to than 24 hours." Mr. Dodd said the Senate would vote on raising the FDIC limit to $250,000 from $100,000 for one year. Final details were still being worked out and could change.
These seemingly minor moves are part of an effort by White House and congressional leaders to rescue the president's proposal by giving it a running start in the Senate. Mr. Bush has said the plan is vital to ensure the proper functioning of the financial system. The proposal was defeated Monday in a stunning revolt by rank-and-file lawmakers, sending global stock markets reeling.
It's not clear if the measures will be enough to reverse Monday's defeat, although initial indications suggest they will attract lawmakers to the legislation. The moves wouldn't fundamentally change Treasury's proposal to buy troubled assets, but would add a populist tinge at a time when voters appear enraged at what many see as a bailout of Wall Street, not Main Street.
Federal law generally insures depositors up to $100,000 when banks fail. The limit hasn't been increased in more than two decades. Proponents of raising the limit say runs on deposits, fueled by consumer fears about the economy, have contributed to recent financial turmoil, and played a part in the collapse of IndyMac and Washington Mutual Inc. They say higher limits will restore confidence in the banking system by comforting consumers who might otherwise take their money out.
Congressional aides said a new proposal could build support among centrist Democrats and Republicans by addressing concerns that the Bush-backed bill needs more protections for Main Street. Such a measure would also win the backing of community bankers, who have lobbied heavily on its behalf.
The U.S. government recently began insuring money-market mutual funds temporarily. Bankers argue that takes away one of their advantages over those funds, which offer better yields than bank deposit accounts. The community banking industry is a powerful force behind the scenes in Congress and its clout could sway some lawmakers to support the bill.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, buoyed by general comments from lawmakers suggesting a new deal could be reached this week, rebounded Tuesday after Monday's record 777-point plunge. The blue-chip measure soared 485.21 points higher, or 4.7%, to close at 10850.66, off 4.4% for the quarter. The new proposals also came as Ireland moved to buttress its banking system, and three European nations bailed out another major lender this week.
Adding to the pressure on Congress to act were some of the nation's biggest corporations, including Verizon Communications Inc., Microsoft Corp. and General Electric Co. GE Chief Executive Jeffrey Immelt is actively lobbying politicians and finance officials in Washington to complete the financial-rescue bill, said a company spokesman. To back up his message, Mr. Immelt directed his staff to compile evidence of the "negative ripple effects" throughout America from the crisis on Wall Street, including information on what is happening to customers and employees in all 50 states.
The unexpected failure of the $700 billion bill in the House exposed deep skepticism in both parties with the planned rescue and sparked a bitter round of finger-pointing over which party was to blame for the collapse. In the aftermath Tuesday, the nation's political leadership at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue offered renewed pledges of cooperation. At the White House, Mr. Bush vowed to "work closely with leaders of both parties," a commitment echoed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.)
Congressional leaders are focusing on improving the bill that failed Monday in hopes of enticing enough lawmakers to change their votes -- 12 would need to switch, assuming all other votes stayed the same. In a series of private discussions Tuesday, the biggest focus was adding an amendment that would raise deposit-insurance limits for banks.
It's not clear why the idea of raising deposit insurance was left out of the original bill that failed. Republicans say they pushed it, only to be rejected. Democrats counter that it wasn't floated during the last round of negotiations over the weekend. One problem: Raising the deposit-insurance limits could require that the FDIC levy higher fees to fund the program, which might have to come from the struggling banking industry. An alternative would be to temporarily waive the premiums that banks pay to the FDIC and have the Treasury be liable for covering losses.
The FDIC's deposit-insurance fund is already at a historically low level, with roughly $1 backing every $100 of insured deposits. One concern among several government officials skeptical of the idea is that it could be politically impossible to reduce the insurance ceiling after the crisis subsides.
The FDIC insured roughly $4.5 trillion in deposits as of the second quarter, and had $45 billion in the actual fund. In supporting the move, the FDIC's Ms. Bair said it "would provide the dual benefits of providing additional liquidity to banks for lending as well as provide some additional reassurance to depositors above the current limits." She raised the idea of "potential borrowings from Treasury" to set up such a program, which would eventually be paid back through fees charged to the banking industry.
In the days after Hurricane Katrina, small banks along the Gulf Coast endured deposit runs, prompting calls by bankers in the region for a temporary increase in deposit-insurance limits. Depositor fears subsided, and the bankers backed off of their request. Amid the current market turmoil, similar runs have created problems for regulators and bank managers. "What we're seeing, in general terms, is almost irrational behavior on behalf of some consumers who are panicking," said Scott Polakoff, the senior deputy director at the Office of Thrift Supervision, which regulates savings and loans.
The House and Senate, in observance of the Jewish New Year, did not meet Tuesday for formal business. With Capitol Hill largely emptied, senior lawmakers and their staff found much-needed breathing room to begin discussions of how best to build consensus for Mr. Bush's plan. That plan envisions spending $700 billion to buy up the tainted mortgages, securities and financial assets that are undermining market confidence and threatening to tilt the U.S. into recession.
Congressional leaders have other options, in addition to the FDIC concept. Among Democrats, for example, there was interest in adding new assistance for unemployed workers, as well as a new $1,000 tax deduction for homeowners who don't itemize deductions, a move that could help address concerns the original bill wasn't focused on helping "average Americans."
Late Tuesday, the Senate leadership signaled its intention to fold into the market-rescue bill a package of business and individual tax proposals, including a measure to ease the bite of the so-called alternative minimum tax on middle-class families. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R., Ohio) "gave the green light" to the idea, believing the tax package will appeal to House Republicans, a Boehner spokesman said. But the move carries risks, since such tax proposals have been unpopular among moderate Democrats in the House.
Rep. Steve Cohen (D., Tenn.), who voted for the original bill, said adding a deposit-insurance increase might help pick up some conservative Democrats and Republicans. "I think you're going to find Republicans looking for a reason to vote for something that is a little bit different," he said.
Camden Fine, chief executive officer of the Independent Community Bankers of America, a trade group representing local banks, noted that the federal government bailed out two major banks -- Wachovia Corp. and Washington Mutual -- moves that effectively protected all funds held by depositors. That worries smaller banks, that fear consumers may leave them for larger institutions. Thirteen banks have failed this year, the most since the end of the savings-and-loan crisis in the 1990s.
On the question of the SEC's mark-to-market accounting rule, the agency issued guidance Tuesday that could give management more flexibility in valuing securities when there isn't a regular market for them. Over the past year, some financial firms have had to write down the value of assets; under the accounting rule, if there is no active market, an asset's value would have to be cut substantially, even if it might be worth something in the future. That has eroded firms' capital base, making them more vulnerable to downturns in the market and reducing confidence among investors.
The SEC said on Tuesday that in some circumstances it might make more sense to judge assets not on what the market will bear, but on their intrinsic value -- for example, if they're from a highly respected company that is unlikely to default. The move is less expansive than that desired by some business groups, which wanted the rule suspended altogether. But its implications are nonetheless significant, potentially giving financial firms a way to revive the value of assets that were previously considered worthless.
Critics have charged that such a move would paper over problems and make opaque markets even harder to judge. House Democrats who voted against the bill received thousands of calls yesterday from constituents. Most members' staffs said the callers agreed with them. Rep. Tom Udall of New Mexico, a five-term Democrat, received 831 emails in the 24 hours after the vote, as well as 300 calls to his New Mexico offices and 100 calls in D.C. "Both calls and emails are two-thirds to 75% opposed to the bailout bill as it stood yesterday," said Mr. Udall's spokesman Sam Simon.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto declined to discuss specifics, but suggested the president is flexible. "There's no single silver bullet here," he said. "There are lots of good ideas that can help the financial-services industry and our financial markets, and we're going to look at all of those ideas."
Ireland puts up €400bn to protect six big lenders
Ireland announced yesterday that the state would safeguard all deposits, bonds and debts in six banks and building societies for two years following a huge share sell-off on Monday.
The €400bn package covers Allied Irish, Bank of Ireland, Anglo Irish Bank, Irish Life and Permanent, Irish Nationwide Building Society, and the Educational Building Society. British depositors with accounts in their UK branches will be covered, as will savers at the UK's Post Office whose deposits are run by Bank of Ireland.
The department of finance in Dublin said it was still considering whether the scheme could be extended to subsidiaries of Irish banks in the UK; it was awaiting a ruling by Ireland's financial regulator. Opposition leaders warned that if the scheme failed it had the potential to bankrupt the republic. In Britain, ministers were also critical, suggesting it could breach European Union state aid rules.
Brussels made it clear yesterday that it was refusing to suspend such rules to meet the crisis Britain, Belgium, France, Germany and other states have all notified Brussels of their bail-outs, with European Commission officials promising urgent and swift decisions.
Another European bank was bailed out yesterday, the third within 48 hours, as €6.4bn was injected into Dexia. An emergency overnight meeting saw the Belgian government agree to invest €3bn, an amount matched by the French state which is to become a 25% shareholder. Luxembourg is supplying the remainder.
Dexia is the world's biggest lender to local government, but also has more than 5m retail customers. Its shares fell 30% on Monday. Other banks exposed to the US mortgage market also suffered deeply. Dexia has undertaken to improve the way it is governed. Paris said it had acted to guarantee financing for local governments for which Dexia Credit Local was the main lender, as well as to stabilise the French and European financial systems; it insisted its main banks were solid.
U.S. Factories Contracted at Faster Pace in September
Manufacturing in the U.S. contracted in September at the fastest pace since the last recession as sales slowed, signaling the credit crisis is spreading beyond Wall Street.
The Institute for Supply Management's factory index dropped to 43.5, the lowest level since October 2001 and less than economists anticipated, the Tempe, Arizona-based group reported today. A reading of 50 is the dividing line between expansion and contraction.
The housing slump has already spread to autos, and other industries may soon follow, as mounting foreclosures, tougher lending rules and rising unemployment choke off consumer spending. While exports have so far kept manufacturing from slipping much more, weakening economies around the globe are also causing overseas sales to slow.
"Manufacturing could be on the brink of a collapse," said Lindsey Piegza, a market analyst at FTN Financial in New York. "There are no orders, no jobs and there is really no incentive for businesses to invest. The credit crisis is compounding the problem." Stocks added to losses after the report and Treasury securities extended gains. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 1.8 percent to 1,145.6 at 10:42 a.m. in New York. The ISM index was projected to drop to 49.5 from August's 49.9, according to the median of 72 economists' forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey. Estimates ranged from 48 to 51.1.
Other reports today signaled the U.S. continues to lose jobs. ADP Employer Services said companies in the U.S. cut an estimated 8,000 workers from payrolls in September after a 37,000 decrease in August, according to figures based on payroll data.
ADP said today's estimate didn't take into account a strike by about 27,000 machinists at Boeing Co. or the job losses following Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. Firing announcements increased 33 percent in September from that same month last year, Chicago-based Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. said in a statement.
The Commerce Department also reported that construction spending stalled in August after a revised 1.4 percent drop the previous month that was more than twice as large as previously estimated. Private residential building increased for the first time since March 2007 and work on commercial projects fell for a fourth month. Orders from overseas have weakened as economies abroad falter. ISM's export gauge fell to 52 from 57 the prior month.
The purchasing managers' gauge of new orders for factories decreased to 38.8, also the lowest since 2001, from 48.3 the prior month. The production measure dropped to 40.8 from 52.1. "I just can't imagine that we'll see a lot of strength in the index in the next few months," Norbert Ore, chairman of the ISM survey, said in a conference call. "It appears to be very similar" to the last recession in 2001, he said.
The index of prices paid plunged to 53.5, the lowest since January 2007, from 77. Energy prices have retreated from their peaks in July, when a barrel of crude oil reached $147. The employment index declined to 41.8, the lowest since 2003, from 49.7 in August. Companies are cutting back on investments and hiring as consumer spending wanes. A deteriorating labor market also is causing Americans to limit purchases to necessities such as food and fuel.
Chrysler LLC, the third-largest U.S. automaker, said last week that it planned to fire about 250 workers as part of a plan to cut 1,000 salaried positions by Sept. 30. The Auburn Hills, Michigan-based company's U.S. sales dropped 24 percent through August, more than twice the industry's 11 percent decline.
The U.S. economy, the world's largest, probably grew at a 1.2 percent annual rate during the third quarter, down from 2.8 percent the prior three months, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists from Sept. 2 to Sept. 9. Since then, economists at JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. have cut their forecasts as consumer spending stalled and the credit crisis brought down Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., American International Group Inc. and Washington Mutual Inc.
A narrowing of the trade deficit as exports jumped and imports fell was the biggest contributor to growth in the second quarter, adding 2.9 percentage points, the most since 1980. That is likely to diminish as economies in Europe and Japan falter.
ECB Drains 173 Billion Euros After Deposits Surge
The European Central Bank drained 173 billion euros ($242 billion) in overnight funds from money markets after being swamped with record deposits from banks.
The ECB had offered to remove up to 200 billion euros at a fixed rate of 4.25 percent. Banks yesterday deposited a record 102.8 billion euros with the ECB overnight and borrowed 15.9 billion euros at the emergency marginal rate, the most since 2002. The ECB's deposit rate is 3.25 percent and the marginal lending rate is 5.25 percent.
"We're seeing a kind of market failure," said Michael Schubert, an economist at Commerzbank AG in Frankfurt. "The ECB can do nothing but treat the symptoms. The situation won't normalize as long as we see negative surprises in the financial sector."
Commercial banks are refusing to lend to each other after the U.S. housing slump caused the collapse of New York-based Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and forced governments to bail out banks in the U.S. and Europe. Central banks including the Federal Reserve and the ECB are injecting billions into global money markets in an effort to keep them functioning.
The Frankfurt-based ECB today raised the amount of dollars it is offering banks overnight to $50 billion from yesterday's $30 billion. It allotted the full $50 billion after banks bid for a total of $70.9 billion.
Too Big To Fail
Before you throw this letter into the proverbial round file, let’s be clear: this is the first time I have ever asked for a bailout from the Federal Reserve. I know what you’re thinking. Why do I deserve your largesse, and I do mean largesse, since I’m asking for five million big ones? The answer is simple.
Like many of our nation’s financial institutions, I am simply too big to fail. If investors were allowed to witness the collapse of Freddie, Fannie, and then Andy, I can’t begin to describe what havoc it would wreak on their already frayed nerves. Actually, I can describe it: global financial calamity. I think we can both agree that, to dodge this bullet, ten million dollars is a small price to pay. (I know that I originally asked for five, but since I started writing this letter my financial situation has deteriorated in grave and unexpected ways.)
Why am I too big to fail? It’s important to grasp the critical role that I play in a wide-ranging but fragile web of economic relationships. If I go belly-up, I will no longer be able to tip my doorman when he gets me a taxi. This is not a hypothetical situation. I have studiously avoided tipping him for a solid month now. Consequently, he no longer has cash to spend at the liquor store after work, and the liquor-store owner no longer has money to spend on Internet porn.
Given that Internet porn is the only fundamentally sound engine of the American economy, we’re playing with fire here. If that stalwart industry is allowed to fail, Asian porn companies will rush to fill the void, offering porn that is both cheaper to produce and way hotter than ours. What will it take to keep this from happening? There are no guarantees, but sending me a check for twenty million dollars would buy us all valuable time.
How did I find myself in this hole? Like most financial crises, mine had its origins on a slippery slope. First of all, I made the mistake of logging on to iTunes when I was high and downloading every Electric Light Orchestra song ever recorded. Second, I created my own e-commerce site, the ill-fated DressYourBadger.com.
I mistakenly believed that a Web site for people who kept badgers as pets and wanted cute outfits to dress them up in would work as a subscription-based service, especially if I charged subscribers a thousand dollars a month. When there were no takers, I switched to an all-advertising model, not realizing that I was plunging headlong into the jaws of an epically weak advertising market, particularly for products relating to pet badgers.
I have never borrowed money from anyone before, and, if you don’t believe me, ask any of my friends. Only don’t ask Bo. You should not ask Bo for two reasons. First, Bo is under the impression that I did borrow money from him, when all I actually did was let him pay for a pitcher of Stella when it was my turn to pay, and then ran out of the bar before he figured it out.
The other reason you should not ask Bo is that Bo is a ginormous dick. In fact, if Bo writes to you looking for a bailout, i.e., he wants to be made whole for that pitcher of Stella, please feed his letter to the nearest high-speed shredder. I promise you, no investor on the planet will give a rat’s ass if Bo goes under.
By now, I’m fairly confident you’ve already decided to give me that bailout, but, just in case you haven’t, here’s one more good reason: there’s a better than fifty-fifty chance that at some point in the next ten years I’ll be elected Vice-President of the United States. I wouldn’t have guessed that a few months ago, but apparently now they’re letting anybody run. How is this significant for you?
In addition to presiding over the Senate and attending state funerals, one of the Vice-President’s duties (as I see it) is to badmouth the Chairman of the Federal Reserve to the President. This is a situation that could get, shall we say, rather awkward for you. But why even contemplate such a scenario when it could all be avoided by sending me a check? It’ll be the best billion dollars you ever spent.