New Polling Data Suggests Americans Really Ticked Off At Entire Financial Sector

I'm no Nate Silver, but I do enjoy reading polls. Most media reports give you the high points - approval numbers, disapproval numbers, that sort of thing. If take a few minutes to dig a little deeper, you'll often find things that didn't make the highlights, but are still very interesting. Case in point: the most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll (pdf).

Fourteen pages into the poll, we find the following question:

I'm going to read you some news stories regarding various people and organizations that you may have heard about over the past two to three months. Please tell me which one or two of these people or organizations have most upset you by what they have done or the example they have set.

Bank executives taking large bonuses when they are receiving federal funds

Mortgage lenders making loans to people who would have trouble paying them back

The CEO of Merrill Lynch spending one million dollars to redecorate his office

Corporations holding meetings at spas and resort locations when they are receiving federal funds

CEOs of auto companies traveling in private jets to ask Congress for federal funds

Obama cabinet nominees who failed to pay their taxes

If you look at the list, you'll see that "all of the above" was not actually one of the options that the respondents were given. But it came in third anyway. An impressive 21% of the sample, when asked to pick one of those items, responded by saying that all of those things are equally upsetting.

If you are - just hypothetically, of course - some sort of trader working on some sort of trading floor, and some loudmouth asks you if you want to help pay for the mortgages of "losers", you might want to keep those results in mind before you do something that might further erode your industry's already non-existant approval rating.

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I'd have said #2. When you originate a mortage you create new money. That money is created on the assumption that the asset(s) and cash flow(s) the underwrite the loan are "money's worth." So when you originate mortgages that you know (or should know) aren't justified by the underlying cash flows and assets, you're essentially counterfeiting money for speculative purposes.

Although #1 comes a very, very close second. But privatising profit and socialising risk has become so routine by now that it fails to upset me emotionally anymore.

- Jake