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Taxpayer $$ Patch Market Bubble -- AGAIN

  • Get ready taxpayers. Americans are facing a heavy toll as stock market madness continues unchecked.
Exclusive to The SPOTLIGHT
By James Harrer

If you are an American worker, pensioner or small saver who owns no stocks or bonds and you think you have stayed prudently clear of the frenetic financial markets, you are mistaken -- as a taxpayer, you will have to pick up the bill for most of the plunder and pratfalls on Wall Street.

First, some facts: since mid-summer, 131 major Internet companies have "crashed and burned" as financial re porter Mark Veverka put it.

The losses in vanished market capitalization have not yet been totaled, but the closest round figure is a trillion dollars, veteran traders say.

At least 11,000 jobs have been lost so far in this debacle. Even the surviving "high est-grade" Internet businesses, known as "Netcos," are drowning in debt. Borrowing at top-notch, hi-tech corporations such as AT&T, Verizon and SBC has shot up from $93 billion to a staggering $210 billion since 1998.

The burden of having to service current loans raised by smaller Netcos such as PSI Net and Nextel Communications, is getting worse even faster, growing at an unprecedented annualized rate of 60 percent.

But it is not just the technology sector that is facing a crisis. A number of long-established U.S. corporations with household names are in serious trouble, whether they admit it or not.


The stock of Sunbeam, once a top consumer trademark, was worth $53 in late 1998; today it sells for 69 cents, amid rumors of a federal investigation of accounting fraud at company headquarters.

The Xerox Corporation, long regarded as one of the world's greatest brands, is living on bank loans and may run out of money altogether soon, industry insiders say.

To make ends meet, the management has decided to fire some 10,000 employees next month, and sell up to $4 billion worth of its assets.

The credit rating of the Xerox corporation has been lowered to triple B-minus by Standard and Poor -- just one notch above junk bond status -- as federal probers launch an investigation of bookkeeping "irregularities" at the company's large Mexican subsidiary.

Although it is not generally realized -- or widely publicized -- research suggests the avalanche of debt that threatens to bury the U.S. corporate economy is made up largely of rickety junk bonds.

In 1991, no more than $7 billion worth of such low-grade, high-yield debt was issued. Last year, the junk-bond borrowing of American firms topped an eye-popping $130 billion.

The Chrysler Corporation, another U.S. business icon now controlled by the German automaker Daimler AG, has been hit with setbacks heavy enough to warrant the closing of seven manufacturing plants, amid rumors of a slashing "management restructuring."

A good deal of the looming losses will have to be absorbed by the banks that financed many of these outsized obligations.

And in the consensus of financial analysts, major banks will simply not be allowed to fail. Their deficits will be amortized as tax credits -- increasing the levy on ordinary taxpayers by an equal amount -- or otherwise written off. If that does not suffice, Alan Greenspan's Fe der al Reserve, and Congress, stand ready in tandem to organize a massive bailout, once again on the backs of taxpayers.

The above does not even mention the trillions of dollars worth of derivatives -- hyper-speculative investments -- held by banks and corporations. This could prove to be the worst danger of all. If the derivative market collapses, the U.S. economy will be dragged down with it.