Ten years ago today the government reversed one of the key elements of the Depression-era banking laws, knocking down the firewall between commercial banks, which take deposits and make loans, and investment banks, which underwrite securities. The repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 was seen at the time as a way to help American banks grow larger and better compete on the world stage. [more inside]
Tonight on PBS, Frontline airs a new investigative report entitled The Warning (sneak peaks 1 & 2), which profiles Brooksley Born, who (as head of the CFTC from '96-'99) was almost alone among regulators in warning of the potential dangers of derivatives.
Last week the House Committee on Financial Services approved legislation to regulate derivatives. Some critics contend that the legislation does not go far enough, and there is fear that there are too many exemptions to the rules: reforming the $42 trillion market for credit swaps is crucial if taxpayers are to be protected from future rescues of institutions deemed not only too big but also too interconnected to fail. [more inside]
Paul Krugman attacked professional macroeconomists (previously). John Cochrane, an economist at the University of Chicago, returns the favor, arguing that Krugman deeply misrepresents current economic ideas because he's abandoned economics as a "quest for understanding" in favor of trying to be the "Rush Limbaugh of the Left."
- "Matt Latimer worked as one of Dubya’s speechwriters during the president’s final twenty-two months in office. He was there to help sell the surge to a skeptical public. He was there as we pretended that the fundamentals of the economy were strong. And he was there to see a president who failed to grasp his own $700 billion bailout package—even as he was pitching it to the American public on live TV."
TARP investments yield 15% returns. Almost trom the start, critics characterized the TARP program that first began under the Bush administration and that continued through early this year under President Obama as a taxpayer funded giveaway, while government officials insisted it was a long-term investment program whose initial costs would eventually turn a profit as economic recovery began. Now the NY Times reports that the program has already yielded $4 billion in profits, and a separate report reveals that related Federal Reserve loan programs aimed at economic stabilization have returned $14 billion in profits.
US unveils banking reform plans. But will the proposed measures adequately address the causes of the current crisis? [more inside]
My Personal Credit Crisis. By Edmund Andrews, economics reporter for the New York Times. I felt foolish, ashamed and angry.... Why had I been trying to live a lifestyle that I couldn’t afford? Why had I tried to keep up the image of a conventional suburban family man, when nothing about my situation was conventional? How could I have glossed over the fact that we had been spending about $3,000 more than we were earning, month after month after month? How could a person who wrote about economics for a living fall into the kind of credit-card trap that consumer groups had warned about for years? Via Brad DeLong.
President Obama has announced he will seek broad new authority to regulate the financial derivatives markets. As has been discussed many times previously here on the blue, the massive unregulated financial derivatives markets (estimated to be in excess of hundreds of trillions of dollars in overall scale) have been one of the major contributing and complicating factors in the current global financial crisis. [more inside]
Sodnomdarjaa Khaltarkhuu never expected to be a metaphor for the far-reaching impacts of the financial downturn.
"The Lighter Side of Pain: What’s Up with Our Global Economy" with P.J. O'Rourke. The keynote talk at the annual Tom Wolfe Weekend Seminar at Washington & Lee University. Prefaced by some rambling remarks by Tom Wolfe '51 himself.
Who will be our era's Duncan Fletcher? Fed up with widespread financial sector double-dealing, profiteering and opportunism in the aftermath of the 1929 stock market crash that triggered the Great Depression, a soft-spoken, conservative Democrat senator from Jacksonville, Florida stepped up to play an instrumental role in shaping post-Depression era financial policies. [more inside]
Matt Taibbifilter: Among other things, the GAO report noted that the entire OTS had only one insurance specialist on staff — and this despite the fact that it was the primary regulator for the world's largest insurer! This week's MeFi stories have generally failed to explain the reasoning that caused the recession, even though Jon Stewart was basically on the mark. Now, Rolling Stone's only reporter lays it all out The Big Takeover, a typical combination of zealous snark and the overlooked, damning facts needed to clear up a ridiculously complicated story.
Where did all the money go? is just one of the enties to GOOD's financial crisis infographic competition. [more inside]
Hilarious and incisive piece by Tom Wolfe about (pre-Crisis) hedge fund managers, tensions between old and new money in Greenwich, on Park Ave., etc.
Newsweek discusses Obama's "War on the Rich," a timely story, considering Bloomberg's recent christening of the "Obama Bear Market." And on a tangential note, TPM points out that those bankruptcy law reforms enacted under the Bush administration specifically included new provisions aggressively lobbied for by the "International Swaps and Derivatives Association," which were designed to protect the derivatives and swap industries. Yet another example of good timing. [more inside]
"Iceland is no longer a country. It is a hedge fund." Also: exploding Range Rovers and the environmental impacts on elves. (Pre-vi-ous-ly.)
The Congressional Oversight Panel, headed by Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren, notes in its third monthly report that for every $100 Treasury spent on its ten largest TARP deals, it received back only $66 worth of assets -- significantly less than for roughly comparable private parties.
Juan Enriquez: Tech evolution will eclipse the financial crisis. "Even as mega-banks topple, Juan Enriquez says the big reboot is yet to come. But don't look for it on your ballot -- or in the stock exchange. It'll come from science labs, and it promises keener bodies and minds. Our kids are going to be ... different."
How Could 9,000 Business Reporters Blow It? A former Wall Street Journal writer dissects why business reporters bought the bull—and missed the biggest story on their beat. [more inside]
Protests have rocked Reykjavík since Tuesday: Envious of Obama, Icelanders hurl yogurt and stage riots for new leaders, Global financial crisis overwhelms tiny Iceland, Flickr set of pictures of Tuesday's protest in front of parliament (complete with pepper spray on camera lens), AFP photos from Tuesday's protest, video from protests 1, 2, 3 & 4, Icelandic protesters pelt PM's car (includes short video). New age of rebellion and riot stalks Europe, The Icelandic "Facebook Revolution", Iceland is Burning part 1 & part 2 and Reuters factbox on Iceland and its economic crisis.
The cover of a major financial publication warns: If you're holding U.S. Treasuries, GET OUT NOW! [more inside]
The End of the Financial World as We Know It. "We have a brief chance to cure ourselves. But first we need to ask: of what?" How to Repair a Broken Financial World. "There are obvious changes in the financial system to be made, to prevent some version of what has happened from happening all over again."
Have we ever been more emotionally volatile, more in thrall to our sensations than now? We had become used to viewing all our neuroses as crises; now a genuine crisis was upon us, it was a cataclysm. Atheist or believer, we have in the last decade been primed for an end-time of sorts, with a stock of latent fears ready and waiting. Suddenly, all of those fears had an outlet.Tim Adams contemplates the new Age of Anxiety.
What the financial crisis means for sex, lipstick, beer, college endowments, Iceland, love and marriage, Spam, recycling, holiday parties, car sales, sports, baseball free agents, psychics, NASCAR and narcissism...
Second Great Depression? We should be so lucky. Or so Dmitry Orlov says. Orlov, an engineer who watched the collapse of the Soviet Union, argues that the United States is well into a similar process of collapse. In Orlov's model, collapse is divided into five stages: financial, commercial, political, social and cultural. The first one is currently happening, and the next two are guaranteed to follow; as for cultural collapse, that happened a long time ago, but people were to narcotised by consumerism to notice. And things look set to get very, very dire indeed, with runaway hyperinflation, shortages, the breakdown of political institutions, the fragmentation of the US, and, if the "social collapse" stage is reached, roaming gangs and ethnic cleansing.
Synthetic CDO's are complex little known financial instruments (insurance contracts) that are on the brink of triggering "the most colossal rights issue in the history of the world, all at once .. mandatory." If, out of a list of several hundred major companies, any nine go bankrupt, the CDO's are in default, which would mean a mass transfer of cash (real money) from unsuspecting investors around the world goes into the banking system. How much? Nobody knows, but it’s many trillions. Banks will be flush with cash, perhaps ending the credit crisis, while many investors (individuals, charities, municipalities) will be wiped out. Alternatively, the triggering of default on the trillions of synthetic CDOs could be a disaster that tips the world from recession into depression. Nobody knows, but it won’t be a small event. Thus far the count is six: three Icelandic banks, Countrywide, Lehman and Bear Stearns.
"She let out a rich, powerful moan, like the sound of a passing diesel train in the night." Jeremiah Tucker updates Ayn Rand's objectivist novel for the current financial crisis. [more inside]
In 2009, a remarkably gifted politician, confronting a remarkably difficult set of challenges, will have to learn to say "No we can't", Guantánamo will prove a moral minefield, economic recovery will be invisible to the naked eye, governments must prepare for the day they stop financial guarantees, we will judge our commitment to sustainability, scientists should research the causes of religion, we will all be potential online paparazzi, English will have more words than any other language (but it's meaningless), Afghanistan will see a surge of Western (read: American) troops, Iran will continue its nuclear quest while diplomacy lies in shambles, the sea floor is the new frontier, we should rethink aging, (non-)voters will continue to thwart the European project -- but cheap travel will continue to buoy it -- though it has some unfinished business to attend to, and a Nordic defence bond will blossom.
The Economist: The World in 2009. [more inside]
The Economist: The World in 2009. [more inside]
The Dow went up today.. don't watch the Dow. Here’s the number that really captures the financial crisis [TED spread]. [more inside]
Sequoia Capital presentation on the bleak scenarios for the economy and how start-ups should prepare. Last week the famous (the firm funded Apple, Oracle, Cisco and Google, among others) venture capital firm Sequoia Capital held a meeting for the firm’s portfolio companies. There, partners presented their views on what went wrong with the economy, what the prospects are for a quick recovery (Hint: the presentation is called 'R.I.P. Good Times' ) and what startups can do to survive. Here are the PowerPoint slides used in their presentation. I suggest a stiff drink before viewing. VIA [more inside]
Bill Moyers interviews George Soros on the financial crisis. Soros discusses market fundamentalism and the causes of the current crisis, as well as what can be done, and how this meltdown will change the global economy. (via The Big Picture) [more inside]
While the Wall Street financial crisis gripped the world Icelanders woke up one day to find that the Icelandic state had forcibly taken over the country's 3rd biggest bank, Glitnir. The worry is now that one of the two larger banks could also fail and the state wouldn't have the resources to do anything as the two remaining of the big 3 have assets totaling 10 times the GDP of Iceland. While the Central Bank claims it was the only option in a bad situation, prior bad blood between one of the Central Bank's directors, a former Prime Minister, and the main owner of Glitnir have some wondering if Icelanders have just been witness to "the biggest bank robbery in Icelandic history." [Warning: The story you are about to read may make you reconsider the verisimilitude of soap operas]
The Financial Crisis: An Interview with George Soros. "We are in the midst of a financial crisis the likes of which we haven't seen since the Great Depression." (video, April 4)
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