The Deadbeat Wears Prada
It kind of makes me sick when the deadbeat wears Prada. Such is the case with Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez. Argentina overwhelmingly voted her in as President and she immediately borrowed vast sums of money. This influx of cash jet-fueled an economic bubble which predictably popped. Then the bills came due for all the money she had borrowed during Argentina’s economic boom.
Rather than paying the piper and facing the obdurate, double-plus unfunny task of cleaning up after her socialism party, Fernandez made like a good Marxist and socialized some of the losses from her own economic mismanagement. Anyone dumb enough to buy Argentinean bonds got stiffed like a co-star in an old Harry Reams film. Argentina defaulted on its debt payments and referred to some of the hedge funds which hold the now worthless Argentinean paper as “vulture funds” because they refused to take a haircut and attempted to make Argentina’s government answer for their behavior in court.
The issue became one of comparative evil. Argentina’s argument goes that if you actually make people pay up when they borrow too much it destabilizes the markets. This is because people typically can’t afford to repay debt at the interest rates their sorry butts deserve to pay based on their moral characters and economic means. I paraphrase. Here’s the nicer, less honest way of making Argentina’s argument.
“Ninety-three percent of bondholders accepted the restructurings so, given the international situation, it would be irrational to rule in favor of the ‘vulture funds’ and pay them 100 percent,” said Mariano Lamothe, an analyst with the consulting firm abeceb.com. “It would break any possibility of (future) debt swaps. Nobody would issue a bond in the New York Stock Exchange.”
And of course, there is the plaintiff’s point of view. You know what really dicks with the market? Having some government promise you interest payments in return for a loan, spending your cash on Jack-a-Lope Ranches and then stiffing you when the debt comes due. It really destabilizes a market in a hurry when you can’t even trust the frikking weasels elected to enforce the rule of law. Again, I paraphrase. Such egregious speaking of the truth would lead to a contempt of court citation. The nice, euphemistic way to call a parasite in Prada a parasite in Prada follows below.
“The 2nd Circuit should be applauded for determining that Argentina must be bound by its contractual commitment to treat creditors equally, and Argentina’s claims that holdouts do not deserve to be paid are a clear strategy meant to continue avoiding the payment of billions of dollars it owes bondholders,” Baker said.
And then there is this absolute gem of diplomat-speak. This stuff is double-plus laugh your (expletive) off.
“In Argentina there’s a huge abyss between the official discourse and public policy,” said Miguel Braun, an economist for the Buenos Aires-based Pensar consulting firm. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Fernandez is saying all of this in her speeches and then goes on and does something completely different.”
There’s always the old chestnut of knowing a scorpion when you give it a ride. Theodore Dalrymple explains why nobody should feel too sorry for someone losing a wad of cash on Argentinean debt.
..the risk of default associated with the original Argentine bonds was written into them by the high rate of interest which they bore, and that therefore the bond-holders have no moral right to complain when the bonds were in fact defaulted upon…If I know you to be an habitual spendthrift, a person who has repeatedly reneged on debts, but I nevertheless lend you money, whether from softheartedness or in the hope of interest payments, I shall be entitled to limited sympathy when you fail to pay up.
Ok, so what if I was king of the world and threw down on President Fernandez for being such a feckless git? There’s a veritable human ocean of fifty-year-old peasant women who would lose their market stalls and be unable to feed their families within a week. The whole economy would burn down like a trailer park invaded by a forest fire. President Fernandez would catch the Baby-Doc Express to Venezuela, retire in her filthy lucre and a bunch of peasants of who couldn’t distinguish the Paris Commune from Paris Hilton would starve in the dark. It’s almost like the E-Vil Rethuglicans were refusing to raise the debt ceiling or something. Think of The Children.
We now discuss the problem with that entire empathetic line of thought. The poor deserve better than Fernandez, but they were all both stupid enough and cynical enough to vote for the Wicked Witch of Buenos Aires. They were stupid enough to believe she could serve them a free lunch, and they were cynical enough to let themselves be used as hostages against the rules of an orderly financial market.
These people know that “vulture funds” are not held in high regard. They know they can appeal to this intense sense that wealth is unearned and should be redistributed. Mrs. Robin Hood in Prada can quietly hide her own $40 Million personal fortune while using them as poster children of economic unfairness. Why Mrs. Fernandez doesn’t just cut a $10 Million check to The Red Cross isn’t a polite topic of discussion.
So, like John Boehner after the last time he was gullible enough to succumb and raise the debt ceiling, anybody stupid enough to lend money to Argentina is getting flensed. This is a cynical, pathetic game. The people who play it have no business calling anyone else a vulture anything.
It’s something to think about next month when the debt ceiling comes up for a vote. When the House of Representatives is getting accused of destabilizing the financial system, they need to stop and think about what output that system is producing. If it just feeds a bunch of parasitic deadbeats who habitually curse the productivity and power of those who make their continued existence possible, it may well be time to destabilize that system with a tactical nuke.