The Media Fall for Hillary Clinton’s Gensler Gambit

By William K. Black
Quito: April 16, 2015

Richard Cordray (former Attorney General of Ohio), the head of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPG) and Gary Gensler (a former disaster under Bill Clinton and Goldman Sachs) have been the two great appointments by President Obama in the field of finance.  Obama’s other appointments at Treasury, the financial regulatory agencies, and the (non) prosecutors who are supposed to specialize in financial prosecutions have been nightmarishly bad.

Gensler was another Rubinite from Goldman Sachs who, under Bill Clinton, helped destroy Brooksley Born’s effort to protect the nation from the financial derivatives that blew up AIG and much of the financial world through passage of the infamous Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000.  As Obama’s appointee to chair the Commodity Futures Trade Commission (CFTC), however, Gensler justly earned praise for attempting to restore effective regulation.  Gensler was a grave disappointment to Obama’s administration, which thought it was sending a reliably pro-finance Rubinite to run a fairly obscure agency he had helped emasculate.  When Gensler showed a spine Obama refused to reappoint him and replaced Gensler with Timothy G. Massad, a Timothy Geithner minion noted for his pro-industry views.  Massad’s claim to fame was being one of the principal unprincipled architects of the failed homeowner relief programs.  As I pointed out in my first Bill Moyers interview, failing (for the right political reasons) proves you are a reliable “team player” and gets you promoted in Washington, D.C.  As Geithner found out, succeeding gets you your walking papers.  Jesse Eisinger, as his norm, wrote a great piece about Massad when Obama nominated him in November 2013.  An alternative view can be found in the American Banker, which gave prominently space to an op ed praising Massad’s nomination written by the head of a firm that trains CFTC staff.

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How the “Super Crunchers” Became the “Super Torturers” of Finance Data

By William K. Black

Some books have spectacularly bad timing, like Moral Markets: The Critical Role of Values in the Economy, which was published in 2008 as a celebration of market and their nourishment of high ethical values.  The book has many interesting chapters and I recommend it, but even lifelong market apologists now refer to the “corrupt culture of banking.”  Ian Ayres, a brilliant professor of law and economics at Yale, published his book Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-By-Numbers is the New Way To Be Smart to critical acclaim on August 28, 2007.  Ayres’ book is an ode to how much better decision-making becomes when it is made empirically on the basis of very large data rather than through human judgment.  There is a great deal of support in the literature for that thesis, and the result is one of the reasons why behavioral economics has become increasingly dominant.  The general idea is that humans bring significant, unexamined biases to our decisions and that systems that rigorously examine the data are superior because they avoid these biases.  That general idea continues to have considerable support and I have no personal problem with the general idea.

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Capitalism’s Defender Unknowingly Indicts the Banksters

By William K. Black
Quito: April 13, 2015

Johan Norberg, of Cato, wrote a book in 2009 entitled Financial Fiasco.  Norberg is an Austrian School economist and the author of In Defense of Global Capitalism (2001).  As his 2009 book demonstrates, however, the quintessential global capitalists were preparing to blow up the global capitalist system in an orgy of “accounting control fraud” at the time he wrote his “Defense.”

He agrees that Fannie and Freddie were used by their controlling officers as accounting control frauds in order to enrich themselves through lush executive compensation.  He aptly explains President Bush’s hypocrisy about Fannie and Freddie.

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Hillary Remains Clueless About Regulation on the 28th Anniversary of the Keating Five Meeting

By William K. Black
Quito: April 9, 2015

The Clintons’ Unlearned Lessons of the Keating Five Meeting

On April 9, 1987, twenty-eight years ago today, my colleagues and I from the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco (FHLBSF) met with five senators at the behest of the most notorious savings and loan (S&L) fraud – Charles Keating.  Keating was looting Lincoln Savings through classic “accounting control fraud” techniques.  Our examiners and enforcement investigation led by Anne Sobol (detailed from Litigation Division) had discovered and documented some of Keating’s worst frauds.  Keating, desperate to prevent our recommendation that the federal agency place Lincoln Saving into conservators (removing Keating from power), used the five senators to try to pressure us into taking no enforcement action against Lincoln Savings and its officers for the largest violation of rules in the history of our agency.

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Herr Schauble’s Foibles: The eurozone Rebalancing Conundrum

By Rob Parenteau

That Germany has pursued something of a neo-mercantilist growth strategy is no great secret. Even newly minted econoblogger Ben Bernanke (apparently, Fed Chair pensions are not what they used to be) has duly noted Germany’s ascension to the throne of the Chief Instigator of Global Imbalances (CIGI) in his post dated April 3, 2015 (see here). At 7% of GDP, Germany’s trade surplus has clearly unseated China’s prior well-vaunted position as CIGI. Clearly, Frankfurt, not Shanghai, has become the new capital city of Global Saving Glutistan, in the nation of West Secular Stagnationa.

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Response to a Distressed Libertarian Reader about Discrimination

By William K. Black
Quito: April 8, 2015

Well, the key to getting strong responses from readers is now clear.  All I need to do is violate the standard rule on the three subjects to avoid to increase the chances of polite conversation – sex, religion, and politics.  My series of three articles on Indiana’s original Act authorizing discrimination discusses each of those subjects.  I thank Andrew for commenting on my third installment, which addressed the op ed in the Wall Street Journal urging “libertarians” to come forward to lead the charge to repeal all laws banning discrimination in private contracts.  Merchants, landlords, and employers should all be allowed to discriminate against any group without the necessity of creating a religious pretext for that discrimination.  I urged libertarians who were not nostalgic for the return of Jim Crow and the Klan’s embrace of discrimination to write and express their support for laws banning discrimination against groups in the marketplace.  None has taken up my invitation, but I thank “Andrew” for writing to express his support for the repeal of laws banning discrimination against disfavored groups in the marketplace.

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Responding to Two Commenters on my Series on Indiana’s Effort to Embrace Discrimination

By William K. Black
Quito: April 8, 2015

At this juncture, I have written three columns about the effort to enact laws allowing discrimination by merchants.  I have received two thoughtful critiques by readers that I would like to respond to.  I thank them for their responses.  The first comment was in response to my first article.

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When Will the Senate Budget Committee Majority Ever Learn About Sector Financial Balances?

By Joe Firestone

There are two words that describe the Republicans’ Senate Budget Committee’s proposed budget: “dishonesty” and “austerity” for most Americans. Let’s deal with the dishonesty part first. In due course, the austerity will be apparent.

The Senate Budget Committee’s statement, entitled “A Balanced Budget That Supports Economic Growth and Expands Opportunity for Hardworking Americans,” claims to support stronger economic growth, and provide greater opportunity. We might well ask “how much growth” “growth for whom” and “opportunity for whom?”

Certainly not for me and thee, since the Senate budget projects substantially decreased Federal outlays over the decade 2016 – 2025, compared to the CBO baseline budget. This decreased Federal spending comes from:

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The Libertarian Plea to Bring Back Jim Crow: An Oxymoron by a Regular Moron

By William K. Black
Quito: April 7, 2015

My April 4, 2015 column discussed the Wall Street Journal’s express endorsement of a right of merchants to discriminate against groups they detest.  I explained that the WSJ was adopting the position of Richard Epstein and quoted Epstein about the policy question he found to be a “very hard question.”  That question was “voluntary” hereditary slavery – he’s in favor of it as a “right” essential to “liberty.”  But he admits that he finds it “very hard” to justify the impact of the “voluntary” contract of slavery on the “externalities” – and yes, he is talking about children as commodities.  I quoted the passage from Epstein’s famous defense of discrimination in his book Forbidden Grounds to show how zany the policy views are that emerge like mold spores as soon as one endorses discrimination by merchants against groups they despise as a means of increasing “liberty.”

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Draghi’s Doom Loop(s): More than just the euthanasia of the rentiers

By Rob Parenteau

The recently adopted QE approach by the ECB, in concert with the negative deposit policy rate (NDPR) introduced last summer, has set off a number of nested disequilibrium dynamics that may unwittingly introduce a material increase in systemic risk for the eurozone, and perhaps beyond. Lord Keynes anticipated what he termed ”euthanasia of the rentiers”, as he expected active monetary policy would be successful in reducing long-term interest rates, and the share of the population living off of bond coupons would eventually just wither away. By way of contrast, if the following assessment is correct, Draghi may have signed a mutually assisted suicide pact with finanzkapital in the eurozone.

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