19 November 2009

The Partnership Between Wall Street and the Government Will Continue Until the System Collapses?

“Hindsight is a wonderful thing,” said Timothy W. Long, the chief bank
examiner for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. “At the height of
the economic boom, to take an aggressive supervisory approach and tell people to
stop lending is hard to do.” Post Mortems Reveal Obvious Risks at Banks, NY Times

Well, the boom is over, so what about now?

The current notional value of derivatives on US commercial banks’ balance sheets is $203 trillion. 97% of these ($196 trillion) sit on FIVE banks’ balance sheets, according to a recent report from that very same Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

It is obvious from this report that Goldman Sachs is by no means a bank, and deserves no consideration as such. It is a hedge fund. In general, Wall Street is out of control.

Today's testimony by Timmy Geithner in front of the US Congress is interesting to watch. It serves to reinforce my opinion that the Administration is incompetent, caught in old solutions and the status quo, and that the Republican alternative is morally and intellectually bankrupt, given to demagoguery, and owned by a similar but slightly different set of special interests.

Most of the congress are indifferent to the interests of the American people as a whole, whether through self interest or mere cravenness, despite their occasional histrionics for the cameras. It is remarkable how they can act as outraged bystanders, when they have long been at the heart of the corruption and decline. It is their job to manage the government. They have classic American CEO amnesia and 'incredible denial.'

The key to a general reform has been and still is campaign finance reform and a reduction of lobbying payments and campaign contributions as soft bribes to Congress. As the banks cannot regulate and reform themselves, at least according to John Mack's recent advice to the American people, so the Congress and the federal government seem incapable of reforming and managing themselves. If one does it, takes liberties with the law, then they all want to do it to a greater or lesser degree; and in some ways they must if they are to be competitive, if the administration of justice creates the opportunity for selective exceptions, the weakening of regulation.

And too many in the States are yearning for a strong leader, someone who will tell them what to do. A great man, who will exercise authority with a directness and little or no discussion. Someone who will 'put things right.' The primary question seems to be less policy than fashion, whether to wear brown shirts or black, and whether torchlight is too 'retro.'

On a brighter note, the Noveau beaujolais for 2009 is rather nice, dry almost to a fault, but not too tannic. A little more 'fruitiness' would have been a highlight.