TIME TO DROP THAT OLD-TIME RELIGION
TIME TO DROP THAT OLD-TIME RELIGION
“The Fed’s defense of its disgraceful refusal to protect the public is meritless. It argues that it was not there in its regulatory capacity and that it sent only a few staffers that laced the capacity or the leverage to accomplish any supervisory goals. This is either a deliberate obfuscation or a confession of a core failure. As Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the FHLBSF I was always a regulator – even when I was providing involved in credit-side activities. As a lender, the FHLBSF often learned material information about the institutions we regulated because we engaged in effective underwriting of asset quality. My predecessor famously used the leverage of the FHLBSF as lender of last resort for the largest S&L in America, which was in a liquidity crisis, to force out the fraudulent CEO controlling the institution and to enter into a broad array of steps that greatly reduced the institution’s risk exposure and frauds. At its peak, we had roughly 50 FHLBSF credit personnel resident at the S&L. The fact that the FRBNY, which had far more resources than the FHLBSF, chose to send only a token crew to be on-site at a potential global catastrophe is a demonstration of failure, not a valid excuse for their failure to act to protect the public. The FRBNY has vastly greater leverage than the FHLBSF ever had and in the context of the Lehman crisis it had the leverage to force any change it believed was necessary, including an immediate conversion of Lehman to a bank holding company and a commercial bank.
The Fed has inherent problems even in safety & soundness regulation due to its structure. First, the regional FRBs have boards of directors dominated by the industry. Congress already made the policy decision, in removing all regulatory functions from the FHLBs in the 1989 FIRREA legislation, that this is an unacceptable conflict of interest.
Second, supervision is, at best, a tertiary activity at the Fed and regional banks. Monetary policy gets all the emphasis, the credit windows come second, and economic research and safety & soundness regulation vie for a distant third place. (Consumer regulation is a bastard step child at the Fed and most agencies.)
Third, the Fed is far too close to the systemically dangerous institutions. The SDIs are in an ideal position to exploit opportunities for regulatory “capture.”
Fourth, the Fed is dominated by neo-classical economists that have no theory of, experience with, or interest in the complex financial frauds that are the dominant cause of our recurring, intensifying financial crises. Bernanke appointed an economist, Patrick Parkinson, with no examination or supervision experience to head all Fed examination and supervision.
Fifth, the Fed is addicted to opaqueness and its senior ranks believe the bankers when they claim that the people must never be allowed to learn the truth about asset losses. One of the conflicts of interest that a banking regulator must never succumb to is the temptation to encourage or allow the regulated entity to lie about its financial condition for the purported purpose of preventing a run on the bank. Geithner, unfortunately, embraced that temptation and stated it openly to the Bankruptcy Examiner. It is very easy, psychologically, to believe that you are letting a bank lie to the public for a noble reason – protecting the public. The bankers always tell the regulators that the world will end if the banks tell the truth – but that is a lie. Regulators’ greatest asset is their integrity. I was one of the four FHLBSF regulators that met with the “Keating Five.” To this day, I have no idea what political affiliations, if any, my three colleagues hold. We simply insisted on honest disclosures and we always made a referral to our agency to alert the SEC (and the FBI) to any efforts we found to use accounting to deceive the investors or the regulators.”
“The Fed’s failures were legion, but five are worthy of particular note.1. Greenspan believed that the Fed should not regulate v. fraud2. Bernanke believed that the Fed should rely on self-regulation by “the market”3. (Former) Federal Reserve Bank of New York President Geithner testified that he had never been a regulator (a true statement, but not one he’s supposed to admit)4. Bernanke gave the key support to the Chamber of Commerce’s effort to gimmick bank accounting rules to cover up their massive losses — allowing them to report fictional profits and “earn” tens of billions of dollars of bonuses5. Bernanke recently appointed Dr. Patrick Parkinson as the Fed’s top supervisor. He is an economist that has never examined or supervised. He is known for claiming that credit default swaps (CDS, a.k.a the financial derivatives that destroyed AIG) should be unregulated because fraud was impossible among sophisticated parties.
Each error arises from the intersection of ideology and bad economics.
The Fed’s regulatory failures pose severe risks today. Three of the key failed anti-regulators occupy some of the most important regulatory positions in the world. Each was a serial failure as regulator. Each has failed to take accountability for their failures. Last week, Dr. Bernanke asserted that bad regulation caused the crisis — yet he was one of the most senior bad regulators that failed to respond to the fraud epidemic and prevent the crisis. As Dr. Bernanke’s appointment of Dr. Parkinson as the Fed’s top supervisor demonstrates, the Fed’s senior leadership has failed, despite the Great Recession, to learn from the crisis and abandon their faith in the theories and policies that caused the crisis. Worst of all, the Fed is an imperial anti-regulatory seeking vastly greater regulatory scope at the expense of (modestly) more effective sister regulatory agencies. The Fed’s failed leadership is setting us up for repeated, more severe financial crises.” (see here)
We will be “tweeting” updates from the event on the 28th. Stay tuned for details ….
Hat tip Warren Mosler’s blog (http://www.moslereconomics.com/)
On his recent piece “Taxes For Revenue Are Obsolete ” that appeared on the Huffington Post he notes:
April 15th has come and gone, but the issue of taxation remains the course de jour. I was recently forwarded an article entitled Taxes For Revenue Are Obsolete, written in 1946 by Beardsley Ruml, the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and published in a periodical named American Affairs. While Ruml was writing about the merits of corporate taxes, it is his discussion about how the function of taxes changed after the nation exited the gold standard that make this a must read. As Ruml’s stated, with an “…inconvertible currency, a sovereign national government is finally free of money worries and need no longer levy taxes for the purpose of providing itself with revenue… It follows that our Federal Government has final freedom from the money market in meeting its financial requirements… All federal taxes must meet the test of public policy and practical effect. The public purpose which is served should never be obscured in a tax program under the mask of raising revenue.” He goes on to explain how, with Federal spending not revenue constrained, the first function of taxation is to regulate the value of the dollar, which we know as regulating inflation. The notion of the Federal government ‘running out of money’ and ‘dependence on foreign borrowing’ as well as ‘sustainability’ is categorically inapplicable. The operative CBO ‘scoring’ is the inflationary effect, rather than simply a revenue forecast. And while Social Security and Medicare may turn out to be inflationary, they are not ‘bankrupting the nation’ as most believe, including a Democratic Congress that cut Medicare spending with the recent health care bill and has all entitlements ‘on the table.’
See also here.
After many requests from media and academics and Wall Street practitioners, we are posting L.Randall Wray’s presentation at the 19th Annual Hyman P. Minsky Conference (Session 7. International Financial Fragility) held at the Ford Foundation.
To download the ppt file click here.
This is not going to happen, particularly when the largest current account surplus nations, notably Germany, cling to a mercantilist export led growth model, an inevitable consequence of that country’s aversion to increased government deficit spending. The German government’s reticence to counter any kind of shift in regard to its current account surplus is particularly significant in light of the ongoing and intensifying strains developing in the EMU nations (see here). Following the inexorable logic of the financial balances approach sketched above, then, I am now more convinced than ever that there is a “Lehman” style event waiting to happen in the euro zone. Last week’s Greek “rescue” is, as we suggested earlier, Europe’s “Bear Stearns event”. The Lehman moment has yet to come. One possible outcome of this could well be significantly larger budget deficits in the US and a substantial increase in America’s external deficit. Let me elaborate below.
The weakening euro and rising oil prices raises the risk of ‘inflation’ flooding in through the import and export channels. With a weak economy and national government credit worthiness particularly sensitive to rising interest rates, the ECB may find itself in a bind, as it will tend to favor rate hikes as prices firm, yet recognize rate hikes could cause a financial collapse. And should a government like Greece be allowed to default the next realization could be that Greek depositors will take losses, and, therefore, the entire euro deposit insurance lose credibility, causing depositors to take their funds elsewhere.
It’s all getting very ugly as it all threatens the value of the euro. The only scenario that theoretically helps the value of the euro is a national government default, which does eliminate the euro denominated financial assets of that nation, but of course can trigger a euro wide deflationary debt collapse. The ‘support’ scenarios all weaken the euro as they support the expansion of euro denominated financial assets, to the point of triggering the inflationary ‘race to the bottom’ of accelerating debt expansion.
So timing is very problematic. A rapid decline of the euro would facilitate a competitive advantage in the euro zone’s external sector, but it could also set alarm bells off at the ECB if such a rapid devaluation creates incipient inflationary strains within the euro zone.
What about the US? In the latter scenario, we can envisage a situation in which the combination of panic and corresponding flight to safety to the dollar and US Treasuries, concomitant with the increased accumulation of US financial assets (which arises as the inevitable accounting correlative of increased Euro zone exports) means that America’s external deficits inexorably increase. There will almost certainly be increased protectionist strains, a possible backlash against both Europe and Asia, especially if the deficit hawks begin sounding the alarm on the inexorable rise of the US government deficit (which will almost certainly rise in the scenario we have sketched out).
Assuming that the US does not wish to sustain further job losses, the budget deficit will inevitably deteriorate further, either “virtuously” (via proactive government spending which promotes a full employment policy), or in a bad way , whereby a contracting economy and rising unemployment, produce larger deficits via the automatic stabilisers moving to shore up demand as the economy falters.
How big can these deficits go? Easily to around 10-12% of GDP or higher (versus the current 8% of GDP) should a euro devaluation be of a sufficient magnitude to induce a sharp deterioration of America’s trade deficit.
What will be the response of the Obama Administration? America can sustain economic growth with a private domestic surplus and government surplus if the external surplus is large enough. So a growth strategy can still be consistent with a public surplus, but this becomes virtually impossible if the euro zone’s problems continue, as we suspect that they will.