Friday, April 17, 2015

The Depths of Absurdity

If you have spent any time on the internet in the past six years you have probably seen the banner ads that claim "Obama signs mortgage relief bill" or "Obama lowers rates for all borrowers".  You may have been tempted to click on those to see if you "qualify" for that "amazing Government offer".  Well banks in some European countries can now start running their own click-through ads claiming that "We will pay you to borrow our money".  But unlike the Obama scams, this offer is--sadly--real.

In one of the most perverse economic moves in human history, some European banks now have to pay people whom they lent money for mortgages.  The lucky borrowers signed notes tied to a key interest rate charged between banks in the European Union.  That rate is now approaching zero (as Eurozone members try to devalue the massive amounts of debt that they and their citizens all owe--while also trying to convince people to take on even more debt to "stimulate" the economy) and as it does, those that borrowed at "below-Prime" rates are looking at a negative APR.  Because no one is really sure how this is going to work, the assumption is that the banks will be forced to decrease the balance of the loan by the negative interest rate each month.

This also sets up the likelihood that those same banks will have to charge depositors interest to keep their money in a savings account!  This is like Bizzaro world in the Superman comics where everything is backwards, light is dark, good is evil and the sun rises in the West.  As anyone with basic math skills would tell you, if people aren't keen on the idea of having to pay to save money and they just keep their cash at home, the banks have very limited futures ahead of them--since their revenue stream is about to dry up.

But that is where we are in our screwed up, debt-based global economy today.  Those that blow through everything they have--and beyond are finding more and more rewards.  While those of us who try to act responsibly with our money keep getting the shorter and shorter end of the stick.  It's also why we should be alarmed every time we hear someone say that the "Government needs to do something to fix the economy", because artificially low interest rates, increased currency production and continuing to take from those who save to give to those who spend through "re-distribution" are about the only ways Government can "fix" things (short of major wars where Government production becomes the economy). 

Because there is far less bank regulation here in the US, the odds of negative interest rates for mortgages and savings accounts are far less likely--but I'm sure more than a few of those "advocacy" groups for student loan borrowers and those that were given mortgages that they could not afford during the housing bubble will be pushing the Obama Administration to "follow the lead of Europe" and make things "fair" for those got in over their heads "through no fault of their own".

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