ND by Nester

ND by Nester

Ok, enough already. I’m sick of people talking about modern markets as if they are something wonderful. No, they aren’t. Obama is absolutely right, they completely fell down on their job, not just for the last 8 years, but for most of the last 28 —whenever Republicans were in charge, and a fair bit when Dems were in charge. Ordinary people haven’t had a raise in damn near 30 years. This is success?

I simply, completely, and utterly fail to see what is so wonderful about the process of securitization. Sure, it allows you to create more financial products. Sure, it reduces the cost of capital somewhat. But are we really better off because of securitization? Of course we aren’t. Without securitization this current market meltdown would have been a hell of a lot milder. What securitization does is take the risk and spread it from the people who might be able to understand it and control it (the people actually issuing the mortgages, for example) to a ton of people who could not possibly know the risk even if they wanted to.

Ratings agency reform is not the solution, they completely fell down on the job and even if incentives were changed they are still not in a position to know whether a mortgage from Mr. Smith is legitimate. Are they going to visit the property? Talk to Mr. Smith? Call his employer? Of course not, they can’t. The only people who can are the people who issued the original mortgage.

Nor should risk be transfered much if at all. Risk must stay with the people who issue the mortgage. If they know it’ll be off their books they won’t do proper due diligence, and no one else can do it. At most, risk should be transfered once and must be transfered in whole and understandable form, rather than taking 20 different incomes steams (or more), melding them together, chopping them into tranches and selling them to people who really have no idea what they’re buying, while you’ve booked your profit and washed your hand, so even if you sold them crap, hahahah, it’s their crap now (or so you think.) Risk must be assumed only by people who can understand it and manage it and who are exposed to the consequences of their decisions. (Ability to manage risk, but knowledge that if they don’t they will get hurt.)

Now let’s talk about this idea that the Fed should basically regulate everyone, with the SEC occasionally peeping over it’s shoulder to see whether market manipulation is ocurring. This is necessary because there are, as Obama points out, no longer clear cut differences between banks, insurance companies, investment banks, brokerages and so on. The repeal of Glass-Steagall put an end to those differences. Glass-Steagall, remember was put in place during the Great Depression to stop another Great Depression from occuring. One of the things that people who lived through the 20s believed caused the Great Depression was not having clear cut boundaries between the businesses, again so that risk was divided appropriately and so that fewer companies became "too large to fail".

But somehow we think we know better than the people who lived through the last Great Depression; the people who lived through the 20’s and the last great market crackup. So we’ve repealed most of Glass-Steagall and allowed everyone to be in everyone else’s pockets, huge financial conglomerates to mushroom into monstrosities, and allowed unregulated "innovative" financial "products" like collateralized debt obligation (CDOs) to grow into such monstrosites that financial markets were huge multiples of the entire real world economy.

Then it all comes crashing down and people claim to be surprised.

Enough, already. Yes, the world is not exactly the same as it was in the 20’s and 30’s, but we didn’t start having these disasters till after Glass-Steagall and other Depression era securities laws started getting repealed. First set in the 80’s, followed by most of the remainder in 99.

It’s time to break up the great financial conglomerates. Force them to cut themselves up and divide back into brokerage houses, investment banks, retail banks, insurance companies and so on. Put them all under the clear control of regulaters. Reinstitute Glass-Steagall, with very mild modernization, and get rid of most complex derivatives, excessive leverage, the carry trade and so on.

Obama’s right, the philosophy of the past 28 years has been a failure. Why don’t we treat it as so, and re-institute what worked, re-regulate, then slowly modify from there, with complete transparency and strong regulation.

Financial markets exist to serve ordinary Americans and non-financial American businesses. They haven’t been doing that properly. Time to make sure they do.

Ian Welsh

Ian Welsh

Ian Welsh was the Managing Editor of FireDogLake and the Agonist. His work has also appeared at Huffington Post, Alternet, and Truthout, as well as the now defunct Blogging of the President (BOPNews). In Canada his work has appeared in Pogge.ca and BlogsCanada. He is also a social media strategy consultant and currently lives in Toronto.

His homeblog is at http://www.ianwelsh.net/