Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Banking Reform

Nice short synopsis of the Senate banking reform bill here.

The problem with all such efforts is that they depend on somebody in Washington having the political will to take on money-making bankers when the markets are flying high. The Fed and the Treasury already had the authority to do a lot of things that would have deflated the housing bubble sooner, but they chose to do nothing. Why is an interesting question. I suppose some populists would say they did nothing because they are in the pockets of the big bankers, or because they are planning to slide from the government to jobs in big banks and don't want to alienate their future employers.

I think the real issue is that when the markets soar, everybody in America gets caught up in it and finds it exciting and chortles over how much their investments or their houses are worth. Nobody wants to hear that the rise is unsustainable. So if the government takes action to do something like reduce stock prices, or reduce the value of houses, they will just make everyone really, really mad. People won't believe that it was inevitable, so they will blame the President and the Congress. The charge will be led by financial advisers who want to sell stuff and conservative economists saying that "markets should decide," but it will be joined by everyone whose portfolio loses money. And no politician wants to face that anger.

Without the political will to enforce them regulations are meaningless. And I am afraid that no matter how good a banking bill Congress passes, it will be just as useless as our old rules were in the face of new ways to make money.

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