Matt Taibbi on another improvised explosive device buried in bank deregulation – one that could lead to the biggest bang yet:
Banks aren’t just buying stuff, they’re buying whole industrial processes. They’re buying oil that’s still in the ground, the tankers that move it across the sea, the refineries that turn it into fuel, and the pipelines that bring it to your home. Then, just for kicks, they’re also betting on the timing and efficiency of these same industrial processes in the financial markets – buying and selling oil stocks on the stock exchange, oil futures on the futures market, swaps on the swaps market, etc.
Allowing one company to control the supply of crucial physical commodities, and also trade in the financial products that might be related to those markets, is an open invitation to commit mass manipulation. It’s something akin to letting casino owners who take book on NFL games during the week also coach all the teams on Sundays….
The irony was incredible. After fucking up so badly that the government had to give them federal bank charters and bottomless wells of free cash to save their necks, the feds gave Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley hall passes to become cross-species monopolistic powers with almost limitless reach into any sectors of the economy.
Read more here.
Wanting to preserve the centralized electric power system and guaranteed returns of 10%, the nation’s electric utilities are ramping up to quash the threat posed by rooftop solar panels, writes Diane Caldwell in the New York Times:
For years, power companies have watched warily as solar panels have sprouted across the nation’s rooftops. Now, in almost panicked tones, they are fighting hard to slow the spread.
Read more here.
Gretchen Morgenson writes in today’s Times:
OUR nation’s largest banks have grown accustomed to regulators who are respectful, deferential and mindful of these institutions’ needs and desires. So, last week, when federal financial overseers unveiled a potent new weapon against too-big-to-fail banks, it seemed as if — just maybe — the winds in Washington were shifting.
Read more here.
Does “Too Big To Fail” also mean Too Big To Regulate?
Gretchen Morgenson talks with Neil Barofsky, former special inspector general for TARP (the Troubled Asset Relief Program) about his new book, Bailout:
“So much of what’s wrong with Dodd-Frank is it trusts the regulators to be completely immune to the corrupting influences of the banks,” he said in the interview. “That’s so unrealistic. Congress has to take a meat cleaver to these banks and not trust regulators to do the job with a scalpel.”
Finally, Mr. Barofsky joins the ranks of those who believe that another crisis is likely because of the failed response to this one. “Incentives are baked into the system to take advantage of it for short-term profit,” he said. “The incentives are to cheat, and cheating is profitable because there are no consequences.”
Read her piece here.
Meanwhile Gar Alperovitz finds a surprising source of support for nationalization of banks that are TBTF and TBTR:
Most liberals in Washington — President Obama included — keep hoping the banks can be more tightly controlled but otherwise left as is. That’s the theory behind the two-year-old Dodd-Frank law, which Republicans and Wall Street are still working to eviscerate.
Some economists in and around the University of Chicago, who founded the modern conservative tradition, had a surprisingly different take: When it comes to the really big fish in the economic pond, some felt, the only way to preserve competition was to nationalize the largest ones, which defied regulation.
Read his column here.
In “Capitalism Unmasked,” Econ4′s joint project with AlterNet, Paul Davidson tours a fairytale world:
Conservative economists and their friends like to trot out a mythical being whenever they want to make arguments that favor an economy built for the wealthy at the expense of ordinary people. This imaginary being, known as the Confidence Fairy, is only happy when capitalists are given free rein to do whatever they want even if it brings us to the brink of a global economic meltdown.
Read his essay here.