As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Not Stupid, Just Secure In Their System

A few days ago, AmericaBlog asked if Goldman Sachs was tone deaf, politically stupid or foolish to boast about high bonuses during a recession. I think the right answer was "they know they can get away with it." Indeed, those record profits from the banks were a feature, not a bug. The government decided to indirectly bail Goldman and other banks out by allowing them to make bushels of money, much of it handed over by the Feds, and essentially recapitalize themselves. It hasn't fully worked, and much of it is illusory, but it's worked enough to give profits for now to a lot of banks, and as a result, compensation shoots up. That's just a byproduct of the decision on how to help the banks out of their mess. That decision itself gets clearer when you look at the revolving door between D.C. and Wall Street, which apparently doesn't stop even if the individual in question helped to fund the Sudan genocide.

As for the political pitfalls of announcing record profits right at the beginning of talks over financial regulatory reform, that doesn't appear to be a great obstacle, either.

Intense lobbying pressure from Wall Street has slowed the progress of a major piece of financial regulatory reform legislation. Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) informed committee members Monday night that a vote on the creation of the Consumer Financial Product Safety Commission will be pushed back until September.

"We wanted to give consumer groups and their allies time to work with their members, organize and get their message out," said committee spokeswoman Elizabeth Esfahani. "So far in this debate, we've only heard from one side, the banking lobbyists, so we want to give both sides time to be heard."

The setback is a wake-up call for Democrats, said Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.), an original sponsor of the measure.

"Now some of those who thought with a conciliatory approach we might get agreement, I think they now know that it's going to be a battle," said Miller.

Further undermining the efforts to create a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, beyond the bank lobbyists, is the chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke, who thinks that the Fed can manage that on their own. Of course, the Fed is a quasi-governmental partnership with... those same big banks whose lobbyists want to tear the heart out of the CFPA. I'm not hopeful that the Federal Reserve would somehow become this uber-regulator over those who partially own them.

Brad Miller is sure to not give up on this, nor will Elizabeth Warren, who can be credited with the idea. Her article on the myths of a CFPA is must-reading. But clearly, they have a big set of hurdles, not the least of which is the perspective that the bankers still "own the place" when it comes to cracking down on them in any meaningful way.

Sure, Goldman won't be able to get everything it wants. After haggling over the purchase of government warrants, they paid them off at a solid price for taxpayers. But that's a small price to pay for keeping the regulatory efforts in their direction.

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