Another Sucker Punch Sunday

It’s another sucker punch Sunday in the making. Aren’t these exciting? Weekends used to be so boring, just sitting around and relaxing. Not anymore. Now they’re a thrill-a-minute as we all await the latest crisis and how it’s going to be fixed until the next Sunday’s crisis — with the handful of our tax dollars left over after paying for the Iraq War.

Last Sunday was the nationalization of Fannie/Freddie. That was a double popcorn and triple caffeine feature. Hard to top, but they’re trying. Today, it’s the sale or bailout of Lehman Brothers!

The U.S. Treasury, fresh from its buyout of the nation’s mortgage industry, is balking at buying Lehman Brothers. Those stingy guys. What’s another multi-billion-dollar, taxpayer-funded rescue? They’ve done it enough. They should be good at it by now. At least they know where to file the forms.

It’s not just Lehman, though. AIG is teetering so precariously on the edge that it’s planning an investor conference call on Monday to outline survival steps such as holding a garage sale to get itself “asset lite” ASAP. I’m guessing today’s pre-call party at AIG HQ is a strictly BYOC event — bring your own capital.

Washington Mutual is apparently pasting a “For Sale” sign on its headquarters, as well. You know the saying: Billion-dollar banker see, billion-dollar banker do. The groupthink must be all but irresistible at this stage.

Investors worried last week that WaMu’s capital — that’s Wham You’s cap it all, as in off for good — had reached the red alert level, and sold the stock down ferociously. Here we thought after all these months that capital was strictly optional in American banking, but evidently some fuddy-duddies are still insisting on it. JPMorgan is interested in buying, and may at this rate end up owning the entire U.S. financial sector.

You won’t need to bother with an ETF or sector fund anymore. No sirree, Jobless Bob. Just buy JPMorgan stock and Treasury Bonds (now that the government bought the mortgage industry) and you’ll own the whole shebang. Life is getting pleasant and simple thanks to these exciting Sundays!

Merrill Lynch shares fell 17% on Thursday and another 12% on Friday, so earmark it as next Sunday’s emergency rescue candidate. Somebody speed-dial JPMorgan. Oh, and get Henry Paulson on the line from the Treasury. He’s a good friend of JPMorgan’s, and downright convenient in a pinch when one company wants to buy another, but doesn’t want to shoulder the risk of the transaction.

No problem these days. That pickle has been neatly resolved with a two-step process: One, move target firm’s profitable parts to the acquiring firm’s balance sheet and, two, move target firm’s bad assets to the taxpayer’s balance sheet so Jobless Bob can pick up the tab.

We do value teamwork in America, and nowhere is that spirit more evident than in these serendipitous Sundays, veritable grab bags of financial fun and lucre logrolling! JP, take the profit; Bob, take the bag of crap. Done! Everybody shake hands.

So pull up a chair and sit back for the show. Here comes JP, here comes Henry, and there are the Lehman Brothers mingling with Fannie and Freddie. Jobless Bob couldn’t make it, but Henry was nice enough to bring his money for him.

Three cheers for teamwork! See you next Sunday.

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