On the anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the economy appears to be making some modest improvements. Unemployment remains high, but the stock market is slowly climbing its way back up. And tonight – lest one thinks the White House has taken it’s eye off the ball – President Obama will deliver an address about the state of the economy where he will try to persuade the American people for another massive expansion of government authority.
Before we get too giddy for more government regulation, however, we ought to step back and clarify a few things.
Yesterday, the WSJ points out that the government has still not explained how it determined which companies were “too big to fail” – a phrase that permeated much of our discussion about the rescue of Bear Stearns, Citigroup and AIG last year. The fact is, no one has been forced to spell out why these corporations were deserving of a life jacket, but Lehman Bros. was allowed to sink.
Charles Gasparino writes in today’s New York Post that there were “many villains responsible for the financial implosion, “But the biggest villain, in my view, is that ultimate enabler of Wall Street’s greed and stupidity – the federal government, in the form of the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department.”
The fact is, Gasparino explains:
“After each market implosion (in 1986-7 and 1994 and on through the 1998 LTCM crisis), Wall Street returned to risk on a larger scale – until the mother of all meltdowns swept the financial system this time last year. That crisis forced the feds to enact the mother of all bailouts – billions pumped into the banking system, with Uncle Sam becoming the largest shareholder of Citigroup, one of the world’s largest financial institutions – and declaring for the first time that the banking system officially is offlimits to failure.”
The financial crisis is complicated. A good place to start to understand what’s happened in recent years is at a new blog Causes of the Crisis, put together by the editor of Critical Review, whose most recent issue takes an in depth look at the causes behind the financial collapse.