Today President Obama took his financial reform plan to the airwaves. While there is no doubt our financial system is in need of financial reform, the President’s plan would make bailouts a permanent feature of the regulatory landscape. Rather than ending “too big to fail” – the President wants us to believe that with additional discretion and power, the same Federal Reserve that missed the boat last time will save us next time.
The truth is that the President’s plan will result in a small number of companies being viewed by debtholders as “too big to fail”. These companies would see their funding costs decline, allowing them to gain market-share at the expense of their rivals, making these firms even larger. Greater concentration in our financial services industry is the last thing we need, yet the Obama plan all but guarantees it.
Obama also chooses myth’s over facts. The President claims that de-regulation and competition among regulators caused the crisis. The facts could not be more different. Those institutions at the center of the crisis – Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bear Stearns, Lehman –could not choose their regulator.
The President’s plan chooses convenient targets and protects entrenched interests, rather than address the true underlying causes of the crisis. At no time have we heard the President discuss the expansionary monetary policies that helped fuel the bubble. Nor has the President talked about the global imbalances – the global savings glut that poured surplus savings from the rest of the world into the US. But then the President appears to hope that loose monetary policy and continued American consumption funded by China will get him out of his own political problems with the economy. It is especially striking that the President makes little mention of the housing bubble, as if it was only the bust that was the problem.
The President continues to say he inherited this crisis. While true, he did not inherit the same individuals – Tim Geithner and Ben Bernanke – who were at the center of creating the crisis. All Obama needs to do is find a position for Hank Paulson and he will have completely re-assembled the Bush financial team.
Without real reform – fixing Fannie and Freddie, scaling back the massive subsidies for leverage in our tax code, loose monetary policy – it will only be a matter of time before the next crisis hits. If we implement the President’s plan, we will, however, guarantee that the next crisis will be even larger and severe than the current one.