Friday, February 17, 2012
On Regulation/Deregulation and the Financial Collapse
a) Investment banks such as Lehman Brothers and Bears Stearns were at the center of the financial crisis and they would have been able to make the same bad investments had the Gramm-Leaech-Bliley Act never even passed.............b) The SEC did change it's rules relative to an investment bank's debt to net-capital ratios (2004). But an analysis of these companies' ratios indicate that in many instances they were actually HIGHER prior to 2004.............c) Spending on financial regulation and the number of pages in the regulation codes were both at an all-time high during the eight years of the Bush administration.............d) The Commodities Futures Modernization Act, while it did allow for the emergence of credit swaps and other such "instruments", it didn't in any way create the original risk to happen - you know, the actual toxic loans themselves.............e) It was the FED (a, HELLO, government entity!!) that (more than likely) created the environment for the housing bubble in the first instance; first by artificially lowering interest rates and secondly by maintaining them at such low levels (causing increased demand for housing and, hence, more debt).............f) It was also the FED (under the auspices of a very bad actor by the name of Alan Greenspan) which created what was essentially a "bailout culture"/"too big to fail" mentality. Fannie and Freddie, Countrywide, Lehman Brothers - they all frigging knew that the taxpayer would come to their rescue. They knew it and, so, they just didn't care.............g) From 1970 to 1995, home ownership in this country was consistently around 64%. By 2005, it had risen to 69%. Based upon the above pieces of information, it's exceedingly hard to see how deregulation caused any of this increase though, yes, I always could be wrong.............h) Now, is this to say that deregulation wasn't a factor AT ALL in the financial collapse? Not necessarily. In fact, folks, the more that I read about this recent history of ours (1995-2008), the more that I really start to question anybody's certainty. But I do think that it's fair to say that the deregulation argument specifically has at least been a trifle oversold.