He had me worried at “Market Stability Regulator.”
U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on Monday proposed a sweeping overhaul of nation’s financial regulations intended to update an outmoded patchwork of competing government agencies that currently oversee the banking sector and capital markets.
In a speech unveiling the “Blueprint for a Modernized Financial Regulatory Structure,” Paulson insisted that the proposal had been in the works for a year and was not intended as a response to the current turmoil in the markets. He cautioned against making snap judgments.
“This is a complex subject deserving serious attention,” Paulson said. “Those who want to quickly label the Blueprint as advocating ‘more’ or ‘less’ regulation are over-simplifying this critical and inevitable debate.”
To be sure, it will take some time to fully assess the potential ramifications of the 212-page proposal, which is unlikely to be adopted in its entirety, if even in parts. There is no doubt room for changes that streamline government regulation and improve transparency for investors, but one aspect of the proposal — which sees a new role for the Federal Reserve Board as the “Market Stability Regulator” — is a cause for alarm.
Paulson said the new role would “replace the Fed’s more limited role of bank holding company supervision” and give it “enhanced regulatory authority” to deal with systemic risk.
“The Fed would have the authority to go wherever in the system it thinks it needs to go for a deeper look to preserve stability,” he declared.
He went on to say that the Fed would have the ability to “collect information” from “commercial banks, investment banks, insurance companies, hedge funds, commodity pool operators” and it would possess “broad powers and the necessary corrective authorities to deal with deficiencies that pose threats to our financial stability.”
THE IDEA OF creating a new Federal Reserve Board on steroids, with broad but ill-defined powers to jump in an out of the financial system like a character from The Matrix, is troubling.
Historically, government regulatory agencies are not known for showing restraint, and giving such discretionary power to a body that already operates independently and clandestinely is an added cause for concern.
Even if one assumes the best intentions from members of the Fed, we cannot forget that they are only human. As intelligent and well educated as they may be, they are just as capable of making mistakes as the clever bankers who bet billions on mortgage investments that turned sour.
Milton Friedman famously compared government intervening in the economy to “a fool in the shower” who turns the temperature from one extreme to another because of the lag time it takes for the water to respond to his previous adjustment. Friedman helped build his reputation by demonstrating that the Fed turned a recession into the Great Depression, by contracting the money supply by a third between 1930 and 1933.
When the economic history of this decade is written, Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke may each come to resemble the fool in Friedman’s analogy.
Under Greenspan’s leadership, the Fed slashed interest rates 13 times from January 2001 to June 2003, bringing the federal funds rate from 6.5 percent to 1 percent, where it stayed until mid-2004. By keeping rates so low for so long, the Fed helped push mortgage rates to their lowest levels since the Eisenhower era. That spurred stratospheric growth in housing prices and created the easy money environment that allowed banks to issue increasingly risky loans.
BY JUNE 2004, the Fed became concerned about inflation, and so it embarked on a rate hiking campaign that brought the federal funds rate up to 5.25 percent two years later. Yet last September, in response to concerns that there was a liquidity crisis, the Fed under Bernanke began to cut rates again.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?