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A trillion-dollar smile

by : Mogambo Guru
Wednesday February 6, 2008 - 11:06

A trillion-dollar smile

By The Mogambo Guru

Feb 5, 2008

No sooner had I sat down than Jim Willie of the Hat Trick Letter said, "The total of all US$-based mortgage bonds is $10.4 trillion." Well, immediately, I am lost and confused, as I thought that this was a free, "get acquainted" luncheon, and anyway, I cannot conceive of such a large number as a trillion, so let’s move on to another topic, such as "Where is the food and is there an open bar?"

But optimistically thinking that maybe I will somehow "get it", Mr Willie goes on, "A conservative estimate of the prime mortgages within this giant mass is $7 trillion. We all know it is more, so bear with my lowball for argument’s sake."

At this point, I was feeling even more alone and scared, partly out of fear that there was not going to be any "free lunch", but also because apparently everybody but me already knew that the total mortgage mess was going to be more than $7 trillion! But I didn’t know! How come nobody ever tells me these things? And why do they keep insisting that I do my own work for a change and stop being a lazy, demoralizing parasite that is always leeching on everybody else’s research around here (and this is where it gets weird, as the whole office chanted, in perfect union) "For a change!"

Suddenly more paranoid than usual, my eyes narrow into slits, and I sweep the crowd with my suspicious gaze as he says, "The prime mortgage bond index measures an aggregate of prime-rated bonds scattered across the beleaguered 50 states, varying over loan size from large to medium to small. The ’AAA’ mortgage bond index has lost a whopping 30%, a fact that continuously eludes the big bankers and their legion of obsequious monitoring mavens", and the estimated $1.4 trillion in subprime mortgages, as representative of the "BBB" mortgage bond index, "has lost 80% of its value".

Suddenly, I am back in the conversational game! I know what a 30% loss is, and I know what an 80% loss is, too! Many things are still a big mystery to me, but I know all about losses! I start to raise my hand as my clever way of interrupting and monopolizing the conversation, and then I stop and think to myself, "What if he challenges me to come up with the total dollar loss?"

Thankfully, I was spared any attempt at computation when Mr Willie says, "Simple math, within the grasp of a 9-year-old kid, results in prime mortgage losses amount to at least $2.1 trillion. The kid might have trouble with all the zeroes though, and even be confused by what a trillion is."

In defense of those of us who come to Earth as ambassadors of intergalactic goodwill from other planets, and those creatures native to this planet who are either a 9-year-old kid or has the intelligence of a 9-year-old kid, or both or all three, or more, I proudly say that we aggregated dimwits already know that a "trillion" is a hell of a lot of something.

And we know that a trillion is big lot of something that has no use to us whatsoever, as our shared evolutionary mathematical system is limited to things such as one bucket of fried chicken to go, "two is company and three’s a crowd" in some circumstances and "the more the merrier" in others, the par-four hole followed by a pesky par-five-dog-leg-right, and the six-pack. End of mathematical system.

And it doesn’t help those of us with such limited intelligence to have it explained to us by saying something like, "A trillion is a million millions", because even IT is too, too much.

Then he says, by way of explanation, "A trillion is a million millions", and I groaned aloud, as I can see this is getting us nowhere, and if I wanted to go nowhere, I would go to one of those court-ordered "therapy sessions" and defend myself against my family’s shrill denunciations and baseless accusations of so-called "therapists".

My lips trembled as I contemplated how much money has been lost, and will be lost, but I fortunately never got started, as he immediately went on to reveal that, "subprime mortgage bonds have lost over $1.1 trillion. If subprime bonds have lost a trillion dollars, why cannot supposed experts estimate that the total asset backed bond losses to be at least a cool trillion dollars?"

Suddenly, we’re talking trillions! As in, "trillion, the plural"! At this point I suddenly needed to catch my breath and gobble down a couple of nitroglycerine pills so that my heart would stop rapidly going thumpa-thumpa-thumpa and radiating excruciating pain across my chest and down my left arm.

As their effect worked its cardiac magic, I could still feel the icy hand of death clutching at me when he said, "Add the two numbers from subprime and prime together to reach $3.2 trillion in their bond losses." Gaaaaahhhh! I’m dying here! How in the hell can you lose $3.2 trillion in a $14 trillion economy? It doesn’t make sense! Call the paramedics!

My brain was shutting down at the cognitive dissonance between what I see and what I hear from "official sources", and I could feel my bowels starting to let go, too, which made me smile because at least I could leave a powerful non-verbal editorial comment that truly, truly conveys the complete sense of disgust that I feel about all of this Federal Reserve mess as I pass through to the "other side".

So it is with things getting dark, my senses and organs failing, that I dimly heard Mr Willie provide the shock therapy I desperately needed when he shouted, "THE OFFICIAL ESTIMATES ARE WRONG BY A FACTOR OF 10!!!"

My delicate Mogambo Sensory Alert System (MSAS) detected something important and sinister in that three-exclamation point punctuation! The shock of the exclamation points, coupled with the revelation that the total losses are going to be at least 10 times as big as estimates project, temporarily revived me by jolting me into a Mindless Mogambo Episode Of Anger And Outrage (MMEOAAO), supplying enough raw adrenaline (fight-or-flight) and sheer will-to-live (so that I could extract a terrible revenge).

But before my heart could explode from the fear and outrage, suddenly the world was a nicer place when he said that all of this silly crap means that, "GOLD WILL SKYROCKET WHEN THESE NUMBERS ARE FINALLY REPORTED." Ahhh! I immediately felt better! My heart rate slowed down, and I could feel a smile trying to break through the grim visage of my stony, angry face.

"Gold will skyrocket," he says. I smiled again. A real one this time. Ahhhh!

Richard Daughty is general partner and COO for Smith Consultant Group, serving the financial and medical communities, and the editor of The Mogambo Guru economic newsletter - an avocational exercise to heap disrespect on those who desperately deserve it.

http://atimes.com/atimes/Global_Eco...



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