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?