Having just heard about JP Morgan's stunning $2 billion dollar loss by a single employee, I read this article by Simon Johnson titled "JP Morgan Debacle Reveals Fatal Flaw in Federal Reserve Thinking": http://www.huffingtonpost.com/simon-johnson/jp-morgan-losses-jamie-...
An excerpt: "Ms. Admati skewered Jamie Dimon at length and in detail 18 months ago on exactly these issues. You must read her original Huffington Post piece. She has been relentless ever since -- see this material. She was right then and she is right now: we need much higher capital requirements and much simpler rules -- focus on limiting leverage. Big banks should be forced to become smaller -- small enough and simple enough to fail."
I wholeheartedly support the sentiment behind this discussion; however, I’m too much of a realist to think it’s ever going to become reality. In 2008 people aligned with the financial industry were the biggest contributors to Obama’s campaign. There is little reason to think anything will be different this time around. Even though financial types would prefer a Romney win they’re going to give Obama more money once it becomes clear that he’s going to win. Those people are smart enough to realize that it’s better to be part of the winning team than it is to go down with the losing team even though you really wanted them to win.
Our best chance to reduce the size of financial institutions was clearly the spring of 09 when the economy seemed on the verge of collapse. If the bankers and their money were able to hold off commonsense regulation then they will have no trouble doing so now with the economy somewhat stabilizing. Once things get even close to normal the general apathy that dominates America has an easy time kicking in again.
Lastly, the horrific Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United has guaranteed that corporations will have more power than any collection of individuals. And let’s not forget that almost half of Americans wouldn’t even support the possibility of limiting the size of financial institutions once Fox News and their pastors told them the idea is being promoted by a Communist and was created by the devil.
Jonathan, you pretty much echoed exactly what I've been saying around here and elsewhere. Someone once argued with me that big corporations can't buy elections because Obama raised so much money from small donors, and I pointed out that yes, Obama set a record for small donations, but at the same time set a record for big donations as well, Goldman Sachs being his largest campaign financier.
I look back at that moment in 2009 when the whole nation's hopes were running high, the economy was in a shambles, and a Democrat who ran on "hope and change" had just entered office, and I think everyone that supports the Occupy movement realized what a golden opportunity that was and are disappointed and feel let down. I was so frustrated I picked up Ron Suskind's book "Confidence Men", and realized that while Obama was showing one thing to the public, in private he was as complicit and oblivious to the real problems with our economy as the establishment. Really, I think anyone who doesn't support Occupy just doesn't get it (not that there aren't plenty of people within Occupy or further to the left that don't get it either).
It appears that we are in need of a social movement on the order of the civil rights and women's rights movements. Someone said recently that Americans were hoping Obama was just going to lead this fight and do it all for us, and now we realize that Obama is not going to lead this charge at all, and we are going to have to do it ourselves, perhaps even without some extraordinarily charismatic personalities to rally behind. But American apathy is one hell of a monkey to wrestle with. I'm afraid by the time the catastrophe that occurs that would finally get us in gear, it will be too late for too many of us.
Did Faux News really say that fighting the huge financial institutions is the work of communists and the devil?
Fox News didn't really say that. I was just, and maybe poorly, trying to say what would happen if anyone actually tried to reduce the size of banks and other financial institutions.
I’d like to add a few more points. When historians look back and try to figure out why the Obama administration failed to live up to the promise so many had for it two things will really stand out: first, Americans only want change when change is a theoretical possibility. Once they realize that actually bringing about change requires sacrifices on their part change isn’t so sexy anymore; second, Obama and his team made a serious miscalculation when they pushed for health care reform before the economy started recovering. By pivoting away from the economy before the recovery had even begun Obama left the door open for Republicans to become the voice on the economy. Since Republicans and their Tea Party friends became the voice on the economy the public trusted them on issues, like health care reform, that had little to do with the short-term economic recovery. When the public decided it was now with the Republicans Obama lost even more credit causing America to wind up with an economic recovery that was poorly managed and health care reform that was weak when it was passed and will be lucky to survive the Supreme Court.
The sad truth is that Americans can’t focus on more than one major issue at a time. By failing to recognize that Obama didn’t take advantage of the economic turmoil to fundamentally change our economic system and his signature piece of legislation became a hindrance to his reelection efforts rather than becoming a piece of legislation that changed the way America does health care and the way Americans view government.
In conclusion, Obama’s administration wasn’t “change we can believe in” it has been “more of the same.” None of this is entirely Obama’s fault though. The reality of things is that Americans love to blame politicians without accepting that they really don’t want the truth. Politicians lie because it works. It works because the truth is too complex and scary for most people to properly digest.
Awesome points Jonathan. Again, you hit the nail on the head. Obama going with health care instead of the economy was a major blunder, as Suskind wrote and as I have been repeating ever since. He blew it on so many levels! As far as Democratic philosophy goes on the economy, he ignored all the right people and listened to all the wrong people, and this by itself gave the country over to Republicans more than any other issue. And as far as health care goes, the initial impetus for doing health care was that there were new, evidence-based techniques for managing health care that would save the health care system a lot of money and justify expanding health care to more people. Instead, Obama settled for expanding coverage without adopting the money-saving measures, causing the system to bleed even more money, and all without a public option or even, as you say, a strong-enough law that could withstand a legal challenge! We're closing in on health care being overturned, the banks running wild and out of control and eventually needing more bailouts, which we will have to give them because they are too big to fail, which will likely cause riots, another economic catastrophe, and our country turned over to the extremists on both sides like what is happening in Greece right now (they recently elected large numbers of members of parliament (I think) from the communist party on the left and the Nazi party on the right - just wonderful!).