Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Items of interest 4/28

Via:  Baseline Scenario 

Pierre Bourdieu, Tim Geithner, and Cultural Capital 

France in the 1960s and 1970s was the source of a tremendous amount of new philosophical, literary, and critical thinking - Foucault, Derrida, Lévi-Strauss, Baudrillard, Barthes, etc. But in my opinion, the most important member of that intellectual generation was the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. In Distinction, Bourdieu’s best-known work, he described how economic class is reinforced by cultural capital: economic elites create cultural distinctions, and pass on to their children the ability to make those distinctions, in order to use cultural sophistication as a means of perpetuating class dominance. This may sound abstract, but think about the example that is the subject of Bourdieu’s The Love of Art: museums. Upper-class parents take their children to fine art museums and teach them how to talk about Rembrandt, Monet, and Picasso; later in college, job interviews, and cocktail parties, the ability to talk about Rembrandt, Monet, and Picasso is one of the markers that people use, consciously or unconsciously, to identify people as being from their own tribe. (Note that democratizing museums - making them open to anyone - doesn’t undermine cultural capital, because the key is not looking at paintings, but learning how to talk about them.)

We used the term “cultural capital” in our Atlantic article as a way of describing the influence of Wall Street over Washington. By this, we meant that one of the primary means by which Wall Street got its way in Washington was by creating and propagating the understanding - among sophisticated, educated, cultured people, as opposed to “populists” or the “rabble” that showed up at anti-globalization protests - that what was good for Wall Street was good for the country as a whole. We didn’t mean to say that old-fashioned campaign contributions and lobbying did not play an important role. (We did, however, say that we thought out-and-out corruption of the Jack Abramoff variety was probably a minor factor - not because we have any insider knowledge one way or the other, but simply because such criminal behavior was simply unnecessary given the other levers available.) But I don’t think that implicit quid pro quo bargaining is a sufficient explanation, because I believe it entirely possible that there are honest politicians and civil servants who really, truly believe that they are acting in the public interest when they come to the aid of the largest banks.

Tim Geithner may very well be such a man. […]

Can you say, “sense of entitlement”?  This sort of astute social observation, coming from someone inside the Eastern Establishment, but with experience observing the social structures of many countries, carries immense weight.  Thank you James Kwak.  The social contract in America needs to be reconstituted.  President Obama’s great promise to bring this about is not off to a good start.  It is well to remember that Obama’s mother worked for the Ford Foundation, as did Geithner’s father.  Obama’s primary loyalties may be to his socioeconomic class.

Via:  Zero Hedge

Sam Zell: "Very Few CRE Financings In 2003-2007 Are Above Water"

Posted by Tyler Durden at 9:09 AM

Following up on the theme Zero Hedge discussed that the vast majority of commercial real estate backed loans have negative equity, real estate tycoon Sam Zell yesterday, in a presentation to the Milken Institute, said that "you have a scenario today where you have very few '03 to '07 financings that are above water. You have more debt than you have value." As owners of these properties have more debt than value, sales of properties over the next two to three years will be minimal as none of them would result in a deleveraging. Instead Sam Zell says "investors will buy distressed debt as these properties go into foreclosure." […]

This goes to the heart of the CRE problem: as no owners of negative equity properties are motivated to sell (why contribute equity to force a sale), existing properties will merely see continuing declining cash flows with no underlying property ownership exchanges, until either the loan defaults or the borrower (REIT xyz) files for bankruptcy as interest costs overwhelm cashflows. The last fact is the reason why Scott Minerd, CEO of Guggenheim partners said "Equity players have every reason to keep playing for time." That explains all the recent REIT dilution actions, who, together with any investors who "dollar cost average down" on their REIT positions, are merely hoping the U.S. government will be successful in reinflating the housing and rent bubbles yet again and property values rise above loan values, resulting in at least nominal equity value. For investors who like betting on those kinds of odds, Craps or even Black Jacks may be a better expression of risk appetite.

Deflationary pressures continue in CRE, and residential awaits the next round of rate resets.  It’s going to take a while for any inflation to get going.

1 comment:

  1. Inflation has already started. Witness the price of oil, gold and other commodities. This inflation may save the big debtors, but it will crush the average person.