Via Br. Dave, probably the best, simplest explanation of the credit crisis I’ve seen thus far. It doesn’t go terribly deep, and leaves out a lot, but it gives a great visual summary of how the hell we ended up here. How the hell we get out of here is another question altogether.
Elsewhere, Jack Gillis helps shed some light on the current proposed loosening of the mark-to-market rules:
The hearing ended with Kanjorski threatening to pass legislation to force Herz to loosen standards. In fact, the pressure was so intense that the FASB. The pressure was so intense that the FASB announced the new rule after only a week. The Chairman of the full committee, Barney Frank, seems to have accepted it as a foregone conclusion. This is absolutely unacceptable. Democrats pressing for this, like Paul Kanjorski and Gary Ackerman, need to stop. Go-along Democrats like Senator Christopher Dodd and Barney Frank need to stop going along. As a Democrat myself, I can complain about the Republicans all I want but the fact remains, the Democrats hold power and it is only because of pressure from Democrats that this loosening is being rushed to implementation. At the end of the day, loosening mark-to-market will only allow the fraud that is the current financial system to be perpetrated, er, I mean, perpetuated.
Go read the rest of the piece because it’s a good, easy-to-understand explanation of some of the blacker magic used to value assets and more importantly, the rule could go into effect in a week. This is one of those things I’ve previously lamented as being simply too damn complicated for the average American to comprehend – so we see very important regulations get implemented or axed with essentially no public understanding of what that means for us, for the market, etc. Quite frankly, too much wool is pulled over our eyes by both political parties in this country, acting more on behalf of the big, global institutions than the average American. I’m not trying to get my inner populist in a tizzy over all of this, but it strikes me that this current business/government partnership is basically nothing more than a fraud. As Gillis points out:
Strangely enough, this appears to be one of those issues where the wingnut right-wingers in Congress and their moonbat left-wing colleagues seem to agree. Witness lefty populist Florida Democrat Alan Grayson, on the one hand, and Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member Richard Shelby, right-wing Alabama Republican, on the other hand. That particular strange-bedfellowing has become so much more common lately that it doesn’t seem so strange anymore. And things are getting to the point now that whenever I see the wingnut/moonbat coalition emerging I’m going to just support the wingnut/moonbats until I have reason to know different. They may have different premises but their conclusion–The System is corrupt and seeking ways to maintain its corrupt benefits—is absolutely correct.
Now, I’m not sure I’ve ever advocated siding with either Right or Left-wing moonbats on anything, but I think Gillis has a point. Right now we are witnessing a major transferrence of wealth into the pockets of institutions and people who have seriously screwed up, and who have largely still profited enormously off of their mistakes. This shift of wealth isn’t even from the “American tax payers” to the investment bankers and hedgefund managers – it’s from future generations of American tax payers to these “giants of industry (or, rather, finance)” and that’s simply not acceptable. If our children have to pay for something than let it be health care or education or stimulus of some sort – not empowering the people who drove us to these depths to do it again. And that’s where I see these sorts of rules leading us – essentially back to square one.
After all, if we allow the banks and bankers to tell us how much their bad assets are worth, and allow them to use another round of sleight of hand on the American public, all under the pretense of reviving lending and getting capital flowing, aren’t we just walking right back into the same inferno? Won’t it all just happen all over again with the same results compacting the problems we’re facing now?
1) Free market enterprise – private capital fully accepts the risk and potential reward, government investigates and prosecutes criminal fraudulent activity (i.e. selling the Brooklyn Bridge or Credit Default Swaps without financial wherewithal to honor guarantees).
2) Regulated enterprise – Same as above, but government represents and attempts to manage private risk through enforcement of preemptive regulation.
3) Government enterprise – Government sets goals, government funds mechanism to achieve them, government is held accountable through elected representatives.
4) Unenforced regulated enterprise Government represents that it is regulating risk and fraud, but in fact does not through failure to fund enforcement or incompetence in enforcement agency or both (i.e. Bush Administration SEC)
5) Public Private “Partnerships” – Public assumes most risk, private enterprise gets most of the reward (i.e. Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, this proposed abomination). these entities are always pregnant with possibilities for corruption wth lobbyist funneling private gains back into public pockets via contributions and bribes (i.e. – Chris Dodd, Barney Frank, etc. ) Corporate Statism at its worst.
Now, as I’ve mentioned a few times before, I think “free markets” are a beautiful, tragic theory. Fact is, they’re never free. Fact is, government won’t allow it – and essentially for a market to be truly, truly free the state would need to erect such a widespread and powerful welfare system and weave together so many safety nets, that no small government type would ever go for it. This leaves us with the other options, and as we can see in my previous economic round-up and in Gillis’s post, too, the government and business leaders are in collusion – perhaps often incidentally – with one another to mutually benefit one another. In a free market, banks that screw up fail. In a reverse socialism model, banks that screw up are labeled “too big to fail” and get propped up ever more absurdly by the public.
Dave Ruggerio is off today.