In what is the start of the biggest uphill battle in D.C., arguably even bigger than deposing the printing press leprechaun, five democrats are proposing an amendment to reinstate Glass-Steagal, whose repeal, through the Larry Summers orchestrated Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, in 1999 set the economy on the collision course that culminated with the implosion of every single Goldman Sachs FICC competitor in 2008. The five Democrats who have undertaken the sisyphean task of taking on both Wall Street and their direct boss, are Maurice Hinchey of New York, John
Conyers of Michigan, Peter DeFazio of Oregon, Jay Inslee of Washington,
and John Tierney of Massachusetts.
If adopted, the measure would give banks one year to choose between
being commercial banks or investment banks. The nation’s biggest —
those now commonly referred to as “too big to fail” — would be broken
up. The Obama administration opposes the measure.
Obama, presumably a Democrat, continues to persist in endorsing each and every Republican legacy when it comes to Wall Street’s landed interests (and risk “management” practices). Of course, the last thing the administration needs is for the populace to comprehend the chameleonic nature of the administration’s action.
The act was repealed in 1999 at the urging of, among others, Larry
Summers, now President Barack Obama’s chief economic adviser.
The five congressman all voted against the repeal then — and now they want it back.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker is one of a number of
financial luminaries calling for at least a partial return to
Glass-Steagall. The Wall Street Journal’s
editorial page also endorsed the concept in a recent editorial as a way
to “reduce moral hazard” and “limit certain kinds of risk-taking by
institutions that hold taxpayer-insured deposits.”
The law’s repeal ushered in an era marked by big banks getting even
bigger. The country’s four largest — Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase,
Citigroup and Wells Fargo – now control more than half of the nation’s
mortgages, two-thirds of credit cards and two-fifths of all bank
And because their deposits are taxpayer-insured, there’s a growing
concern that they will feel overly confident about making risky bets
through their investment arms because they know that should they suffer
huge losses, taxpayers will ultimately be there to bail them out.
The five Democrats face big obstacles, including their own leadership and the Obama administration.
At this point the whole systemic regulation debate is getting glaringly amusing. At the core of every conflict are proposed reforms that are so obvious from a risk mitigation debate: audited Fed, split up banks which are now bigger than ever before, propping a bankrupt FDIC, which in turn is backing up bankrupt institutions, and a bankrupt country which is trying to fool the world into a game of M.A.D. knowing full well if the US taxpayer goes down directly or indirectly, the world, and the proverbial flood, follow after. And the only sensible reforms are those getting the biggest push back from Obama, and of course, Wall Street. How these two seemingly traditional opponents have ended up on the same side of the page is testament enough to the cataclysmic legacy of Bernanke and Summers. Of course, nothing will be done about anything, in tried and true American fashion, until it is too late, and Main Street is left sorting through the rubble of Goldman’s new glass-plated headquarters, even as all inhabitants have long-ago departed the country and left the U.S. with a few quadrillion in I.O.U.’s. At this juncture the best option before politicians is to simply delay for one year until mid-term elections provoke some vestige of sensibility in the ruling class.