Sunday, November 29, 2009

Break up the big banks and tax speculation for a stronger economy

I like what David Moberg's views on breaking up the too-big-to-fail Godzilla-sized banks that get a blank check from the federal government to cover their losses, but then make record profits and bonuses without delivering the same economic growth and access to capital for small businesses (that actually create jobs) as regular-sized banks do.

His In These Times column is here and the part that resonated the most for me:

Financial industry leaders, in what Johnson calls a “silent coup,” persuaded politicians and regulators from both parties that banks and other institutions were so sophisticated they could assess and manage risk without any oversight. The government deregulated or failed to regulate, letting financial institutions grow so much that they were “too big to fail,” implicitly guaranteeing a federal bailout if they got in trouble, and thus encouraging riskier behavior.
Now ... as the industry fights even modest, common-sense rules, these banks may have become too big to regulate.

I can hear the apologists for the mega-banks make the case that because they hire the smartest mathematicians in the world, they know better than legislators or bureaucrats on how to assess risk, since they develop the most sophisticated models in the world to do just that. Well, I'll never believe that line again for the rest of my life after the meltdown, but I don't want more Godzilla-sized banks in a generation peddling the same line. I'd rather keep the banks at reasonable sizes from now on to prevent another unregulated financial bubble from causing another recession.

Every city ought to have a few major banks that are headquartered in their city. There shouldn't be three or four monster banks sucking up regional banks around the nation that will then inevitably have incredible clout to block common-sense regulation.

Another excellent institutional way to prevent another meltdown is to tax speculation (instead of taxing jobs, like the payroll tax does). This Guadian article by Andrew Clark as well as a New York Times blog piece by Cyrus Sanati lay out bills filed by Congressman John Larson (D-Connecticut) and Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) to tax the bets in the global casino we call the financial markets (that largely caused our recession). 

We had a national transaction tax from 1914 to 1966. I want Congress to bring that tax back and spend that money on things that benefit me -- like paying for teachers or trains or making college free. At the very least, we should follow the title of Representative DeFazio's bill and "Let Wall Street Pay for Wall Street's Bailout' instead of making me pay for Wall Street's bailout. 

The bills are H.R. 1068 and H.R. 3153.

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