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Financial regulation in USA?

Written By: - Date published: 3:51 pm, March 16th, 2010 - 24 comments
Categories: capitalism, us politics - Tags: ,

The recent recession represented a spectacular failure of unfettered capitalism. We never felt the full force and completeness of that failure because the worst was averted (or more probably just delayed) by vast injections of Government bailout money. Capitalism was rescued by good old fashioned Socialist Big Government, and the bill is being sent to we the taxpayers.

Although vested interests have tried to deny or obfuscate, it’s pretty clear that (after simple greed) the major factor which allowed the crash to happen was a relaxation of financial regulation. A nice accessible summary was given by Professor Elizabeth Warren in the interview with Jon Stewart that was posted here (second clip).

Warren points out that America’s early history was characterised by a rapid boom and crash cycle, culminating in the Great Depression. In the wake of the Depression America introduced financial regulations, most importantly the Glass-Steagall Act, FDIC Insurance, and SEC regulations. After that “We go 50 years without a financial panic, without a crisis”. But…

… then what happens is we say, “Regulation? Ahh, it’s a pain, it’s expensive, we don’t need it.” So we start pulling the threads out of the regulatory fabric, and what’s the first thing we get? We get the S&L crisis. 700 financial institutions failed. Ten years later, what do we get? Long-term capital management, when we learn that when something collapses one place in the world, it collapses everywhere else. Early 2000’s, we get Enron, which tells us the books are dirty. And what is our repeated response? We just keep pulling the threads out of the regulatory fabric.

So we have two choices. We’re gonna make a big decision, probably over about the next 6 months. And the big decision we’re gonna make is, it’s gonna go one way or the other. We’re gonna decide, basically, “Hey, we don’t need regulation. You know, it’s fine: boom-and-bust, boom-and-bust, boom-and-bust” — and good luck with your 401(k). Or alternatively, we’re gonna say, “You know, we’re gonna put in some smart regulation that’s going to adapt to the fact that we have new products,” and what we’re gonna have going forward is, we’re gonna have some stability and some real prosperity for ordinary folks.

Well, this shoe has now dropped:

Dodd unveils sweeping financial regulation plan

A new Democratic Senate bill to tame the financial markets would give the government new powers to break up firms that threaten the economy and would force the industry to pay for its failures.

Legislation unveiled Monday by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd falls shy of the ambitious restructuring of federal financial regulations envisioned by President Barack Obama or contained in legislation already passed in the House. But the bill would still be the biggest overhaul of regulations since the New Deal. It comes 18 months after Wall Street’s failures helped plunge the nation into a deep recession.

A leaner Federal Reserve would gain new powers to regulate the size and the activities of the nation’s largest financial firms. The bill would create a consumer protection bureau within the Federal Reserve to write regulations governing all lending transactions. Bank regulators, however, could appeal those regulations if they believe they would affect the health of the banking system. … The breadth of the bill would touch all corners of the financial sector, from storefront payday lenders to the highest penthouse office suites on Wall Street.

Perhaps America has managed to learn something from the crash. Of course this is only a proposal, it could still be derailed by the vicious tactics of vested interests (in much the same way as Obama’s health reforms). But it shows that at least some part of the American political system has learned the lessons of the crash, and is trying to take some sensible action.

24 comments on “Financial regulation in USA? ”

  1. What gives? A deep intenste post on the weakness of capitalism and there are no comments but Chauvel asks the kid of a wingnut to be quiet and there are 68 at the last count …

    • sk 1.1

      ms, well said. Your point sums up where NZ is headed.

      What about financial regulation in NZ? Where is the outrage the finance company sector wiped out NZ$6.2bn of savings, in a country that does not save. And that Watson and Hotchin stuffed it all into Allied Farmers and walked away. Or that Don Brash now heads up a fund management firm that issued fraudulent accounts (inflating returns by insider deals is fraud, which at a minimum should mean huge fines, and banning of individuals for life).

      but no, all that matters is that Chauvel told some precious brat to pipe down.

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    It doesn’t go far enough. It needs to either, ban fractional reserve banking and/or ban interest rates. But it’s unlikely that either of those will be done until after the next lesson in economics is learned – that a perpetually growing capitalist-market socio-economic system doesn’t work in a world of limited resources.

    • Nick C 2.1

      Draco many people in New Zealand get mortgages to buy houses to live in. How would they get these mortgages without fractional reserve lending/interest rates?

      • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1

        Well, we could go back to the old fashioned way of paying cash. Or the reserve bank could just print the money, as it does anyway, and loan that out with 0% interest direct to the mortgagees rather than to the private banks.

        The problem that needs addressing is that the present system sets debt that can never be repaid and that needs to be stopped.

  3. Pascal's bookie 3

    Elizabeth Warren just kicks arse.

    There was a vacancy in the number two spot at the fed that I would have given her. If only to scare the crap of the plutocrats.

  4. TightyRighty 4

    “A new Democratic Senate bill to tame the financial markets would give the government new powers to break up firms that threaten the economy and would force the industry to pay for its failures”

    the first part of that is ridiculous, the government has already acted against monopolistic companies, and that is where it should remain. otherwise it’s a political tool, that will be used to pick winners and losers. forcing an industry to pay for it’s failures? that’s retarded in the extreme. individual companies that do not perform should be allowed, nay, made to go bust. having the industry pick up the tab penalises good behaviour. oh, that’s socialisms wet dream though. silly me for criticising here.

    • Lanthanide 4.1

      How do you propose a company that is bankrupt should pay back billions of $ it owes to debtors? It isn’t really possible, the money has to come from somewhere.

      By saying “in the event of failures, the money comes from all members of the financial sector, not the taxes of the public”, they give everyone involved in the financial sector an incentive to watch each others backs – they don’t want to get stung when their rival goes down. This in turn should help moderate behaviour as individual banks will reconsider deals that in the past they may have blithely gone through with. Really it’s like when you’re at school and the teacher says that if anyone is naughty, the whole class has to stay 10 minutes after school ends – the kids will make sure that no one is naughty or they’ll get punished too.

      • Roger 4.1.1

        “This in turn should help moderate behaviour as individual banks will reconsider deals that in the past they may have blithely gone through with.”

        Not only that; it fear of the penalties is great enough, you might create some self regulation with teeth and lobbying by finance companies and banks for greater regulation of themselves and more invasive auditing and inspection by government agencies. This presents the opportunity for greater security for investment in the future.

    • ‘The first part of that is ridiculous. The government has already acted against monopolistic companies and that is where it should remain. Otherwise it’s a political tool that will be used to pick winners and losers. Forcing an industry to pay for it’s failures? That’s retarded in the extreme. Individual companies that do not perform should be allowed, nay, made to go bust. Having the industry pick up the tab penalises good behaviour. Oh, that’s socialisms wet dream though. Silly me for criticising here.’

      There ya go TR, fixed it for you. Next term the teacher will teach you why capitals, commas and punctuation are important aspects of adult communication. Till then readers can just snigger at your illiteracy and, just occasionally, decipher the points you are trying to make in your stream of unconsciousness and have a good laugh at them too.

      Pip Pip!

      • TightyRighty 4.2.1

        thanks voice. great to see that you have no response other than to be petty and snide. and you wonder why no one likes those on the left any more. it must be hard being ignored when you are the, “the voice of reason”

    • prism 4.3

      tr you seem to want no controls then you say that “individual companies that do not perform should be allowed, nay, made to go bust”. Those companies will do lots of tricks on their way down, drag down the money invested with them, and syphon enough of it sideways so that the creators get out with at least a comfortable living. They then wait a while and start the process again. That’s rampant capitalism folks!

  5. Bill 5

    As far as casino capitalism, the losses incurred and the whys and wherefores…I’m stealing this analogy, ’cause it’s so apt….it’s like OJ Simpson is in charge of the crime scene and the investigation.

    Meanwhile. William Black, the guy who helped clean up the S&L banks in the 90’s, has this opinion on the state of the financial industry http://www.economicpopulist.org/content/why-we-are-headed-depression ….unless you prefer the tittle tattle of some MP farting or burping or whatever

  6. tsmithfield 6

    Don’t blame capitalism for the financial meltdown. In a similar way, the Greek PM has been been blaming speculators in credit default spreads for the meltdown in their economy. Hello. How did the economy get into such a mess in the first place? It was all to do with a poorly run economy, and massive deficits that gave the speculators their chance to cash in.

    In a similar way, the financial meltdown was largely due to the subprime mortgage issue as is well documented. This was inspired by politicians who wanted people to have houses who couldn’t afford to own them. When interest rates went up they started to default. Hence the beginning of the meltdown.

    Macro economic problems are invariably the result of poor decisions by governments and distortions to the system. I agree there is a need for governments to regulate to protect the average punter from some of the scams that have been masquerading as finance companies. However, a lot of the finance companies got into trouble due to the money supply suddenly being turned off rather than the shonky dealings that a few engaged in.

    • Bill 6.1

      So don’t blame capitalism for capitalism? That’s all your saying. Which is absurd. You think it’s the fault of the gods? You think we should consult oracles? Make sacrifices?

      Here’s a wee piece on the Greek situation, by former deputy finance minister of Germany. Interesting.


      • tsmithfield 6.1.1

        If you want to aquaint yourself fully with the Greece situation, then here is an excellent site with as much on the financial situation in Greece as you could possibly want to read:


        I know about the trade imbalance with Germany and that is contributing to the problem. However, that has nothing to do with the fact that Greece lied and deceived to get into the Euro in the first place, has an enormous public service to fund, and has huge difficulty in collecting taxes due to the extreme culture of avoidance. Even taking Germany’s effect into account, Greece is still in huge trouble due to its own financial mismanagement, deception, and culture of extravagance.

    • prism 6.2

      Oh come on ts. I keep hearing this convenient blaming of governments facilitating more opportunities for mortgages for low income people. And that’s a major reason for the financial meltdown. Government did not demand that banks make stupid decisions, get caught in a growth of business climate, and introduce interest-free holidays as if people were buying furniture.

      It was just the natural exuberance of money grabbers which we saw in banks making similarly bad decisions after regulations were lifted in NZ, India etc. The share market reacts similarly regularly – a competitive greed virus spreads and its hard to resist and remain financially healthy, wealthy and Wise.

      • prism 6.2.1

        ts – try this version mark2:
        “USA [Greece] is still in huge trouble due to its own financial mismanagement, deception, and culture of extravagance.”

  7. luva 7

    The recession is without a doubt the hangover that was always going to follow what seemed like unlimited credit that flooded the world economies from the end of the asian economic crisis until August ’07 when the crunch began.

    The thing which is quite striking is no one really predicted it. We all just thought the good times were going to roll on. How many people are now saying “I told you so”. Very few if any at all. We were all happy to sucukup the easily accessible credit, spend it on new flat screens, watch the value of our homes soar. It was always going to end but everyone kept their heads in the sand.

    Governments around the world, including ours, patted themselves on the back somehow deluding themselves that they were responsible for growth when in fact it was due to easy credit and unsustainable property value increases. When those two things reversed so did the world economy.

    Have we learnt. I don’t think so.

  8. vto 8

    r0b, your post is spot on. Anything unfettered leads to twouble – be it capitalism, socialism or any other-ism.

    Shame that so many lives get hammered when these unfettered times mutate into their worst forms. More than a shame, closer to tragedy.

    Good to see something is being done about it. Will be fun to watch the vested interests scream in contorting pain.

  9. Bill 9

    Ratigan interview on Lehman Bros thievery and fraud and possibility of criminal proceedings against them and Erst and Young…as well as touching on complicity of the US Treasury ( Geithner) and Federal Reserve (Bernanke) …


    As an aside….amazing the difference in attitude and the demands that the msm encourages us to make in relation to unprecedented financial fraud on the one hand and scurrilous claims of scientific fraud (AGW) on the other. ( Ignore the former…was all an accident or an understandable oversight. Pitchforks and gallows for the latter…these scientists are mendacious little bastards who deserve no mercy)

  10. Wilson Philips 10

    Pity Rob is delving into a realm he has no expertise in.

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