Monday, July 12, 2010

The nice old man is here to tell us of our impending financial doom

We are on the verge of having tepid financial reform getting passed. Either when West Virginia's 42nd Annual Moonshinin' and Couches What Done Burn Festival ends and they appoint someone to Robert Byrd's seat or when Democrats water the bill down even more to get one other person to jump on. Oh mediocre day.

As we are close to yet another monument to our government's time wasting ineffectiveness, half measures, and total subservience to business in the face of all rational fact, the New York Times decided to interview former Fed chair and current senior White House adviser Paul Volcker to comment on the impending legislation. Try not to be bowled over by the overwhelming stream of "Meh" and the "we're probably all doomed, but I'm optimistic" vibe he exudes.
If he were a teacher, and not a senior White House adviser and the towering former chairman of the Federal Reserve, he says, he would have given the new rules just an ordinary B — not even a B-plus.
Yeah, but he's grading on a curve. So Congress' performance gets bumped up because they didn't dub Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein King of All Money and Jewels That He Surveys. Continue, Pauly.
For all of what he describes as the overhaul’s strengths — particularly the limits placed on banks’ trading activities — he still feels that the legislation doesn’t go far enough in curbing potentially problematic bank activities like investing in hedge funds.
No shit.
....he’s concerned that it still gives banks too much wiggle room to repeat the behavior that threw the nation into crisis in the first place.
Hmm, then it doesn't seem to me like it does its job. Maybe that curved B was a little high, no? Or were we grading for effort? That B still seems high. Anyway, any ominous statements about the future to add?
“People are nervous about the long-term outlook, and they should be,” he says.
Maybe I was giving him too much credit with the "Meh" thing. He seems to give this thing a passing grade, then goes on at length at why he should expel all the students from Chug-A-Lug House for poor academic performance and destruction of property.
At the age of 82, Mr. Volcker is from a generation of Wall Street personalities who accepted strict financial regulation as a fact of life through much of their careers.
HAH! How quaint. Volcker must feel like the last human alive wandering through a mass of zombies whenever he goes to Wall Street. But what of his proposed, and smart, Volcker Rule, which would have prevented banks from risking their funds on trading in default swaps and mortgage backed securities? You know, the one that got watered down.
Mr. Volcker thinks that Congress has watered down his trading rule...but rather than roar in protest, he has resigned himself to the present shape of the Volcker rule as well as the overall legislation.

“The success of this approach is going to be heavily dependent on how aggressively and intelligently it is implemented,” he says, emphasizing that a new, 10-member regulatory council authorized by the bill will have to be vigilant and tough to prevent the nation’s giant banks and investment houses from pulling America into yet another devastating credit crisis.
Hmm, so..... no hope at all? If elected and appointed representatives can't be tough and vigilant with banks, what are the odds the people they appoint will be? I thought so. Any statements you would like to make that unwittingly describe the shoddy means by under which we are governed?
“The thing went from what is best to what could be passed,” he says.
Another phrase that should be engraved on a plaque and hung in the halls of Congress. And really, when dealing with the fallout from one of the most massive financial crises in world history, isn't doing what's best of little concern? Close it out with a statement underlying just how underwhelmed you are.
“We have to have a regulatory system that reflects today’s problems and tomorrow’s potential problems,” he says. “This bill attempts to do that. Does it do it perfectly? Obviously it does not go as far as I felt it should go.”
You gotta love it when eminently smart men who know an issue inside out are asked about the problem they have helped Congress work on fixing for the past year plus and the best thing they can say about the legislation is that it attempts to do something. Then the eminently smart man follows that up with a statement telling you that it isn't close to what he, the eminently smart man with the experience and knowledge, would attempt to do. Spirit lifting is what it is.

He's just too nice to tell us we're all fucked and we've left the exhaust port on the Death Star wide open. Wall Street is going to slip a ship past the big guns, fire a proton torpedo into the son of a bitch sometime soon and there's nothing we can do about it. Happy days.

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