Politicians in Washington are mesmerized by Wall Street campaign dollars and terrified by being branded “socialists”. That seems to be the most likely explanation for the failure of the Congress to pass a second stimulus bill despite continuing high levels of unemployment -especially long-term unemployment – that are absolutely catastrophic for millions of families.
In fact, politicians are leaning in the other direction. Instead of a jobs bill, they are promoting deficit reduction. Instead of promoting stimulation of the economy there has been a stunning revival of Herbert Hoover financial orthodoxy: hard money, balanced budget, and deficit reduction.
Yes, long-term fiscal responsibility is important but cutting spending in the midst of a recession is more likely to lead to deflation of prices, business activity and jobs than to the inflation that worries the financial elite. Social stability is promoted by full employment policies, diminishing crime, sickness and chronic unhappiness. Didn’t we learn from bitter experience?
The same politicians have just completed a financial overhaul bill that will be known as the Dodd – Frank Act. The outcome of this so-called reform is particularly relevant to taxpayers who spent and pledged trillions of dollars to bail out the banking system, especially the five US banks with the most assets: Bank of America $2.34 trillion, J.P. Morgan Chase $2.14 trillion, Citigroup $2 trillion, Wells Fargo $1.2 trillion, Goldman Sachs $0.88 trillion. The 10 largest banks have $10.4 trillion in assets, equivalent to 80% of the gross domestic product of the entire US.
The most important failing of the Dodd-Frank Act is that it does not resolve the biggest problem and the greatest danger in the recent financial crisis…If any one of the largest banks falls into serious financial trouble, by mistakes or by excessive risk, the federal government would be compelled to rescue to prevent collapse of the entire financial system. The concentration of wealth and power is the greatest danger to our capitalist system.
The Act reduces proprietary trading and regulates derivatives but we have had regulators and regulations for 100 years of ineffectiveness as low paid civil servants are overcome by the richest financial institutions in world history. There are two ways to reduce the risk of “too big and too powerful to fail.” First, cut the enormous and interconnected financial firms down to size by requiring them to sell off their various divisions. Alternatively, let them remain large but have the federal government take them over to be treated as public utilities run by salaried employees without the tempting bonuses realized by anti-social risks and gambling with other people’s money. If the taxpayer assumes the ultimate risk by bailout, he should have the ownership as well as the profits generated by the rise and fall of the various markets, often manipulated by the big boys in their seats of power.