Could the be the end of denial? The first step on the path to recovery? Let’s hope so.
March 13, 2008
Paulson Admits Deregulation Has Failed Us All
Commentary: Mortgage proposals spell end to decades of looking other way
By Rex Nutting, Washington bureau chief
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — You know things are very very bad on Wall Street when a guy like Henry Paulson — Treasury secretary, solid Republican, and former Goldman Sachs CEO — joins the crowd calling for more regulation over the financial markets.
Paulson spared no one in his criticism Thursday of the excesses of deregulation that has now created the worst global financial crisis in a generation, threatening the health of the U.S. economy, the savings of millions of Americans, and the survival of some of the biggest financial institutions in the world.
Wall Street and Washington both failed big time, he said. Wall Street invented new ways to make money by selling securities so complicated that no one could really follow which shell the pea was under. Fortunes were made on the paper Wall Street sold.
At the same time, Washington’s watchdogs were dozing, tranquilized by the false assurance that Wall Street would police its own.
It’s been obvious for years now that Wall Street could not be trusted, and finally official Washington agrees. The markets need a tougher cop to make sure that money-center banks, investment banks, credit-rating agencies, hedge funds, mortgage brokers and the rest don’t let their own greed and arrogance ruin it for the rest of us.
“Regulation needs to catch up with innovation,” Paulson said, and he was backed up by the rest of President Bush’s working group on financial markets, including Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Securities and Exchange Commissioner Chris Cox. Not a commie among them.
The housing bubble wasn’t a flaw; it was a predictable outcome of a system that rewarded smart people small fortunes for conjuring up ways to persuade people to borrow more than they could ever hope to pay back. All the profits were taken off the table quickly, but the staggering costs are only now being paid by homeowners, shareholders, builders and the rest of society.
Paulson’s proposals won’t necessarily prevent a recurrence, but they are a humble recognition that the centerpiece of two decades of Republican economic policy have failed.