Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The meltdown in a nutshell

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James Moore writes:

… Conservative Republicans always want the government to stay out of business and avoid regulation as long as they are making lots of money. When their greed, however, gets them into a fix, they are the first to cry out for rules and laws and taxpayer money to bail out their businesses. Obviously, Republicans are socialists. The Bush administration has decided to socialize the debt of the big Wall Street Firms. Taxpayers didn’t get to enjoy any of the big money profits on the phony financial instruments like derivatives or bundled sub-prime paper, but we get the privilege of paying for their debt and failures.

Let’s just consider the money. The public bailout of insurance giant (becoming a dwarf) AIG is estimated at $85 billion. According to one report, that’s more than the Bush administration spent on Aid to Families with Dependent Children during his entire time in office. That amount of money would also pay for health care for every man, woman, and child in America for at least six months.

How did we get here?

That’s pretty easy to answer, too. His name is Phil Gramm. A few days after the Supreme Court made George W. Bush president in 2000, Gramm stuck something called the Commodity Futures Modernization Act into the budget bill. Nobody knew that the Texas senator was slipping America a 262 page poison pill. The Gramm Guts America Act was designed to keep regulators from controlling new financial tools described as credit “swaps.” These are instruments like sub-prime mortgages bundled up and sold as securities. Under the Gramm law, neither the SEC nor the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) were able to examine financial institutions like hedge funds or investment banks to guarantee they had the assets necessary to cover losses they were guaranteeing.

This isn’t small beer we are talking about here. The market for these fancy financial instruments they don’t expect us little people to understand is estimated at $60 trillion annually, which amounts to almost four times the entire US stock market.

And Senator Phil Gramm wanted it completely unregulated. So did Alan Greenspan, who supported the legislation and is now running around to the talk shows jabbering about the horror of it all. Before the highly paid lobbyists were done slinging their gold card guts about the halls of congress, every one from hedge funds to banks were playing with fire for fun and profit.

Gramm didn’t just make a fairy tale world for Wall Street, though. He included in his bill a provision that prevented the regulation of energy trading markets, which led us to the Enron collapse. There was no collapse of the house of Gramm, however, because his wife Wendy, who once headed up the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, took a job on the Enron board that provided almost $2 million to their household kitty. And why not? Wendy got a CFTC rule passed that kept the federal government from regulating energy futures contracts at Enron.

If John McCain gets elected and chooses Phil Gramm as his Treasury Secretary, which many politico types see as likely, they will be able to talk about the good old days when Gramm was in congress and McCain was in the senate and they were in the midst of the Savings and Loan crisis. …

More at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

20 September 2008 at 9:41 am

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