Saturday, July 19, 2008

It's The Absence Of Regulation, Stupid

~ While McBush tries valiantly to convince us the recession is all in our heads, those of us still dwelling in the reality-based community know better~
For those of you out celebrating the fine summer evening weather who missed it, Bill Moyers on his Friday night Journal had an excellent show about how the subprime mortgage debacle has ravaged Cleveland, Ohio, how the Fed ignored it, leaving the city, after trying to pass banking regulations that the Ohio state governor and legislature ~ all Republicans, natch ~ defeated, to ultimately to file suit against lenders whose irresponsible pursuit of profits (in the complete absence of federal regulations) had them joining in the frenzy to bundle and sell shaky mortgages, reap profits, and divest themselves of the burden of carrying the loans before entire neighborhoods (and social structures) collapsed. TV well worth watching.
Last Thursday, E.J. Dionne wrote about the collapse of Reaganomics that "the biggest political story of 2008 is getting little coverage. It involves the collapse of assumptions that have dominated our economic debate for three decades.
"Since the Reagan years, free-market cliches have passed for sophisticated economic analysis. But in the current crisis, these ideas are falling, one by one, as even conservatives recognize that capitalism is ailing.
"You know the talking points: Regulation is the problem and deregulation is the solution. The distribution of income and wealth doesn't matter. Providing incentives for the investors of capital to 'grow the pie' is the only policy that counts. Free trade produces well-distributed economic growth, and any dissent from this orthodoxy is 'protectionism.'
"The old script is in rewrite. 'We are in a worldwide crisis now because of excessive deregulation,' Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said in an interview. He notes that in 1999 when Congress replaced the New Deal-era Glass-Steagall Act with a looser set of banking rules, 'we let investment banks get into a much wider range of activities without regulation.' This helped create the subprime mortgage mess and the cascading calamity in banking.
"While Frank is a liberal, the same cannot be said of Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve. Yet in a speech on Tuesday, Bernanke sounded like a born-again New Dealer in calling for 'a more robust framework for the prudential supervision of investment banks and other large securities dealers.' Bernanke said the Fed needed more authority to get inside 'the structure and workings of financial markets' because 'recent experience has clearly illustrated the importance, for the purpose of promoting financial stability, of having detailed information about money markets and the activities of borrowers and lenders in those markets.' Sure sounds like Big Government to me.
"This is the third time in 100 years that support for taken-for-granted economic ideas has crumbled. The Great Depression discredited the radical laissez-faire doctrines of the Coolidge era. Stagflation in the 1970s and early '80s undermined New Deal ideas and called forth a rebirth of radical free-market notions. What's becoming the Panic of 2008 will mean an end to the latest Capital Rules era.
"What's striking is that conservatives who revere capitalism are offering their own criticisms of the way the system is working. Irwin Stelzer, director of the Center for Economic Policy Studies at the Hudson Institute, says the subprime crisis arose in part because lenders quickly sold their mortgages to others and bore no risk if the loans went bad. 'You have to have the person who's writing the risk bearing the risk,' he says. 'That means a whole host of regulations. There's no way around that'"
"While some conservatives now worry about the social and economic impact of growing inequalities, Stelzer isn't one of them. But he is highly critical of 'the process that produces inequality'. 'I don't like three of your friends on a board voting you a zillion dollars,' Stelzer, who is also a business consultant, told me. 'a cozy boardroom back-scratching operation offends me.' He argues that "the preservation of the capitalist system" requires finding new ways of "linking compensation to performance."
"Frank takes a similar view, arguing that CEOs 'benefit substantially if the risks they take pay off" but 'pay no penalty' if their risks lead to losses or even catastrophe - another sign that capitalism, in its current form, isn't living by its own rules.
"Frank also calls for new thinking on the impact of free trade. He argues it can no longer be denied that globalization 'is a contributor to the stagnation of wages and it has produced large pools of highly mobile capital.' Mobile capital and the threat of moving a plant abroad give employers a huge advantage in negotiations with employees. 'If you're dealing with someone and you can pick up and leave and he can't, you have the advantage.' 'Free trade has increased wealth, but it's been monopolized by a very small number of people,' Frank said. The coming debate will focus not on shutting globalization down but rather on managing its effects with an eye toward the interests of 'the most vulnerable people in the country.'"
"In the presidential campaign so far, John McCain has been clinging to the old economic orthodoxy while Barack Obama has proposed a modestly more active role for government. But the economic assumptions are changing faster than the rhetoric of the campaign. 'Reality has broken in," says Frank."
Your Demon would add ~ and with a crash.
The funny thing about the terms of economic debate in America since Reagan, certainly, is that discussions about its effects seem never to take into consideration the tendency of go-go capitalism to override and obliterate concerns about whether a functioning democracy can really survive in the face of it. Our founding fathers warned against the very thing.
But by now, I suppose, we all know that was the point, at least in the Bushworld version of radical neocon corporate capitalism.
Big Money=Big Campaign Contributions=Access, Influence and Favorable Policy Toward Big Money.
Bad Karma Lagniappe: Yesterday's MarketWatch online newsletter warned potential buyers that it's getting harder to get a mortgage, and cited as anedotal evidence the example of a Bear Stearns employee:
[...]"Case in point: One of his clients, an employee at Bear Stearns, was recently required to get a statement from the human resources department indicating continued probability of employment at the firm. The statement could not be obtained, and the mortgage wasn't approved, he said. 'They're trying to be a lot smarter than they were three, four or five years ago,' he said. "


Thursday, July 03, 2008

Fourth of July ~ Quote of the Day

By way of warding off the excess of jingoistic, mindless patriotism to which we're sure to be treated, to considering that it is an election year, a failed war on terra drags on, and the Moron Cowboy is still in office ~ celebrating his LAST 4th of July there, I might add~ your Demon wishes to share these thoughts from Teddy Roosevelt in celebration of the big day, which certainly cheered her up when she precipitiously ran across them earlier today:
"The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole.

"Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.
Kansas City Star (1918-05-07)

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