Monday, May 17, 2010

The New York Times, Ben Bernanke:Two for One

While reading The New York Times Online ( May 14th),
I became shocked that two respected institutions could get
"it" so wrong, the causative factors leading up to the
Great Recession of 2008-2009.
To wit, heavily edited and paraphrased :

(1) NYT Interviewer: Some people ask, could you
(Ben Bernanke and the Fed)
have averted this serious recession? Mr. Bernanke did NOT
state the correct answer, which should have been "No".
Absent the controls in place for some 65 years, chiefly the
two banking acts known as Glass-Steagall, NO ONE could have
stemmed the gushing tide of red ink on balance sheets, Main and
Wall Street's, as the big banks simply ran amok,
acting out that willful child's arrogant claim,
"I can do ANYTHING I want!".
Add to that the rush to sub-prime mortgages by
those something for nothing artists,
the note sellers/holders as well as the "buyers"
who really should have known they could not afford
a house, even after being goaded/inspired
by countless ads proclaiming "You deserve it"
(this "it" being whatever someone wants)....

(2) Mr. Bernanke added to his obfuscations/misinforming statements by repeating that tired
old Wall Street saw: ......the regulations during FDR's time were primarily designed for commercial banks, not the fast-moving, innovative financial instruments in our modern interconnected markets......-Whoa! -Wait! The language of Glass-Steagall
was precisely crafted to avoid all the commingling, hiding, laissez faire fox-guarding-the-henhouse problems extant ONLY after the G-S Acts of the '30's were allowed to lapse during the Clinton/Gramm/Leach/Bliley era. Few, if any, changes in the language of Glass-Steagall are necessary; Mr. Bernanke well knows those acts covered all the zany, irresponsible, greedy behaviors of many big banks, then and now.

Renaming a thing, process, etc. is the favorite tactic of those impatient for fame/fortune/power without possessing truly new, good ideas; this happens in Medicine, Science, and even more frequently, Finance. Changing the terms of rash business practices in 1998 and after doesn't change the reality that the same phenomenon constantly reoccurs, over decades and even centuries. Read Lord Keynes' General Theory, then watch Niall Ferguson on PBS, "The Ascent of Money"--show me the profound "differences due to new instruments in this new century", please, I may be missing something important.

On May 14th, The NYT and B. Bernanke both erred,
a two for one scenario. It's vital to read, think,
tell the truth then act. Hopes for a less chaotically
painful world ride on such an approach....

It always has.

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