Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kevin Jacques: Will we waste this financial crises?

EVER SINCE Americans discovered huge p0tholes ( and not pots of gold) in the country's economic safety nets, one expert after another across the political spectrum has sought to lead us to the smoking gun that victimized millions of unsuspecting souls. Well, yes. Predatory home mortgage lenders and Wall Streeters who found a comfort zone in the Bush administration's relatively soft regulatory touch on free-wheeling financiers were among the culprits. Hooray! Now we know.

Indeed, a former regulator in the Bush years, Kevin T. Jacques, an economics professor at
Baldwin-Wallace College, concedes that the government's watchdogs did a "poor job" in looking after the shifty fast-buck artists and institutions who manipulated the system to their benefit and, disastrously, to many others' financial ruin. But he did put an asterisk after that observation: the government has regulatory power over only half of the lenders who led people hopelessly astray.

In a talk to the Akron Press Club, Jacques said that there was an "urgent" need to fix a systemic crisis in the nation's opaque financial framework. And, he added in proposing strong action now that we have experienced a meltdown, "a crises is a terrible thing to waste." Well, considering the across-the-aisle warfare that has taken hold in Congress, that remains to be seen.

"Regulators need a game plan," he said, noting that too often regulators looked at the individual trees in the mix and lost sight of the forest. But even he doesn't see much hope for early financial reforms to control abuses - "greed and evil", as he put them - in the financial systems. Politics keeps getting in the way of a workable transition to a higher ground. One needs to check Congress on any average business day to understand the source of Jacques' concern.

Jacques also addressed another element of the mess that has gotten less attention: the financial ignorance of too many people who were led astray by the sharpies. He said there was a move afoot early in the Bush years to insert financial education into a high school's curriculum. But, alas, it was beaten back by states and education groups who preferred to keep the feds out of their education plans

So now, I must necessarily wonder: Which is the greater of the two evils?


PJJinOregon said...

Haven't you heard? Wall Street is moving to Washington. Banks and brokerages are setting up offices in D.C. They are no longer content merely funding lobbyists; they expect to have their CEOs in town for the impromptu lunches and cocktail parties that grease legislative skids. Kevin Jacques is right, but money trumps truth every time.

Grumpy Abe said...

I wouldn't be surprised if some of these congressmen start offering their loyalties to lobbyists on eBay.But I'm being unkind. Baucus obviously needs a well stocked campaign treasury for the rigors of campaigning in Montana 31 years. Why else would they call it the Big Sky state where the sky isn't the limit? Meantime, stop encouraging me to be so cynical.