Front Street

Monday, August 04, 2008

By Gigi

America is for sale, and the buyers of some of our most iconic corporate assets are a bunch of Mid-east oil sheiks (who are Muslim and may have terrorist ties), Asian government investment funds and market Marxists…and they all hate us! The United States is sinking fast and growing desperate; some of the biggest U.S. corporations have been grabbing foreign dollars by selling off chunks of themselves to foreign economic powerhouses that were once second and third tier states. Amid a historic sell off of the city’s bluest blue chips, Uncle Sam has been a bystander, lowering interest rates and peddling Treasury bonds as critics cry that the wheels are starting to fly off the U.S. economy.

I am not a financial analyst or won’t even pretend to fully understand all the inner workings of high finance. But from my limited understanding, what I’m seeing is that the United States is borrowing from the rest of the world and that means to me, that larger and larger fractions of the U.S. asset base are going to be owned by companies that are not headquartered in the United States and individuals who are not citizens of the U.S. The city has faced runs on its holdings before; the most famous one that I can remember is when the Japanese giant Mitsubishi bought Rockefeller Center in 1989. And that started the trend. Earlier this year, Citigroup sold a $12.5 billion stake to investors from Kuwait, Singapore and Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. The mighty Merrill Lynch, once a financial titan, crawled and scoured the world to come up with $20 billion to maintain their business and ALL of the cash are from funds associated with foreign governments.

Wall Street banks have raised $59 billion to keep their doors open and most of the monies are from investors in the Middle East and Asia. And among them, are government related entities of Singapore, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi and China. Two years ago, remember the hysteria that erupted when Dubai put up money to invest in U.S. port operations and wound up driven from these shores? Today, given the chance again, we would gladly sell to them and naysayers be damned!!! Because now, we have no qualms about peddling stakes in the pillars of American finance because, to put it quite frankly…beggars can’t be choosers. A United Arab Emirates investment group bought the upscale clothier Barneys. An arm of Abu Dhabi purchased a major chunk of microchip maker Advanced Micro Devices and Dubai is sinking money into the MGM Mirage. The equation: they’ve got the dollars…we need the dollars and will take the dollars at a price.

Who’s to blame? Politicians? Greedy, crude oil producers? Who? All I know is that the U.S. never got serious about reducing dependence on foreign oil. Too many homeowners got in too deep using homes as ATMs; too many bankers threw money at borrowers whether or not they had the means to make payments. And federal regulators looked the other way. It was a hell of a party!!!! And now the hangover is a monster. Job creation has slowed, the housing industry is in the tank, economic stimulus checks were mailed to U.S. citizens to help jump-start the economy and to get us to start spending again. Because hard times on Wall Street mean hard times all around. I for one will not be looking for a return of the property tax cut for homeowners; because we have American bastions of capitalism scouring the globe for cash.