As an economic process, financialization makes money through debt leverage — taking on debt to pay for things that will increase income or the value of assets: for instance, taking out a loan for education or a mortgage on a property to open a store. But instead of using credit to finance tangible industrial investment that expands production, banks have been lending to those who want to buy property already in place — mainly real estate, stocks and bonds already issued — and to corporate raiders — those who buy companies with high-interest bonds. The effect often leaves a bankrupt shell of a company, or at least enables corporate raiders to threaten employees with bankruptcy that would wipe out their pension funds or employee stock ownership plans if they do not agree to replace defined benefit pensions with riskier contribution schemes.
The dynamic is more extractive than productive. Corporate financial managers, for example, can raise their company’s stock price simply by buying back shares from investors — financing the move by borrowing money. But in addition to raising debt-to-equity ratios, these short-term tactics “bleed” companies, forcing them to cut back on research, development and projects that require long lead times to complete. Corporate managers are paid by how much they can raise their companies’ stock prices in the short run. When earnings are diverted to pay dividends or buy back shares, growth slows. But by that time, today’s managers will have taken their money and bonuses and run.…MichaelHudson.com
Fix our debt addiction to fix our economy
Michael Hudson | President of The Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends (ISLET), a Wall Street Financial Analyst, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and Guest Professor at Peking University