Home / Sezioni / globi / 5 years later, we've learned nothing from the financial crisis

facebook-link twitter-link


Registrati alla newsletter di sbilanciamoci.info


Ultimi link in questa sezione

Turni di 12 ore e dormitori, l’Europa di Foxconn sembra la Cina
La vera tragedia europea è la Germania
Redistributing Work Hours
Institutions and Policies
A Finance Minister Fit for a Greek Tragedy?
I dannati di Calais
Are creditors pushing Greece deliberately into default?

5 years later, we've learned nothing from the financial crisis


Five years ago, Lehman Brothers, AIG, and the global financial system were not blown up by subprime mortgages, collateralized debt obligations, or credit default swaps. They were not blown up by greed or fraud, alone. The financial crisis that left millions of people still out of work was caused by an idea: the idea that unregulated financial markets are always good and that we can rely on the self-interest of bankers to improve all of our lives.


The ideology of free financial markets gained sway in the 1990s, with Alan Greenspan at the Federal Reserve and Robert Rubin at Treasury, and was not seriously contested in Washington before 2008. It was a Wall Street-to-Washington consensus that spanned bankers, lawyers, lobbyists, journalists, college career counselors, legislators, regulators, and the highest reaches of the Clinton and Bush administrations. It gave us derivatives non-regulation, consumer non-protection, the end of Glass-Steagall, creative capital accounting, regulatory arbitrage, and, ultimately, tens of thousands of empty houses rotting in the desert. Ultimately it delivered a financial shock from which the world has still not recovered.


For a brief moment, when it seemed the economy could grind to a halt, it was unthinkable that we would ever return to business as usual. At a low point, even Greenspan admitted that he had made a mistake. Five years later, however, the ideology of financial deregulation is back. And while not completely uncontested, it appears to be comfortably ensconced everywhere that matters.


Last month, for example, the federal regulators gutted a provision of the Dodd-Frank Act that required securitizers to retain 5 percent of the the risk of the securities that they were creating—on the grounds that we really, really need the market for mortgage-backed securities to come back. This followed on earlier rules issued by the CFPB that, while certainly not all bad, gave lenders an expansive safe harbor from liability—because we really, really want banks to make mortgage loans. Then there are Fannie and Freddie, which are still doing that thing they do—using the federal government’s credit to subsidize home loans—because no one has the stomach to take on the real estate-financial complex.


It’s not just housing. Despite serious-sounding noises from the Federal Reserve, capital requirements for major financial institutions—those that could bring down the financial system—will at best increase from laughable to amusing. The opposition to higher capital requirements is based on the (fallacious) claim that more capital will reduce lending and therefore harm the economy.

Read more