17 February 2010

Why the 'Trickle Down' Approach Is Not Working in the US

The approach taken by the last two administrations to the financial crisis has been to pack liquidity into the big Wall Street banks, certainly not the regional and local banks, without serious reform.

The notion is that by 'saving the banks' they will be able to support the real economy with loans to spur economic activity. It is the same mindset that provides for huge tax cuts to the top end of the income chain, the very group that benefited from the latest bubble. Its a variant of the 'trickle down' theory popularized by the Republicans under Reagan.

The banks prefer to take the Fed and Treasury money and guarantees at near zero percent cost, and loan it back to the public (after all it is their money) in revolving credit (credit cards) at 18%. It's a sweet setup, provided by the Fed and the Congress. Long term loans and leases? Why bother.

If they want risk, they shove the speculative markets around and make side bets on the failure of companies and now, even nations. Failures, we should add, that are intimately tied into various frauds marketed by the banks themselves.

This is the fatal policy error at the heart of the failure of the Obama Administration and the Fed to intervene effectively in the collapse caused by the Fed's heavy handed manipulation over the past fifteen years.

In fact, one could easily make the case that their intervention does much more harm than good, placing additional debt burdens that are strangling the productive economy, serving only to support and perpetuate a distorted and outsized financial sector concentrated in a few elite corporations that are heavy contributors to the Washington politicians of both parties.

It's trickling down all right. But not in the form of productive allocation of capital.