10 May 2010

Three Critical Banking Reforms

Excerpt from Robert Reich's piece at Huffington Post: The White House Should Stop Pandering to the Street and Support Three Critical Banking Reforms

The White House opposes three important financial reforms that have drawn bipartisan support in the Senate. It should reverse course.

1. Require the Fed to disclose the entities it lends to.
There's no reason the public should be kept in the dark about who benefits when the Fed departs from its traditional interest-setting role and chooses to provide credit (or in Fed parlance, "open its discount window") to particular companies or entities. To the contrary, a well-functioning capital market and a well-functioning democracy depend on full disclosure about who the Fed picks for such special treatment and why.

2. Require big banks to spin off their derivative businesses.
Derivatives got us into the mess and Wall Street's biggest banks are still wielding them like giant poker games. That's because they're enormously lucrative for the banks. But they're also dangerous to the economy because bad bets can lead to meltdowns, especially if they're backed only by flimsy promises to pay up rather than real capital.

3. Cap the size of the biggest banks.
You don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand that the best way to reduce financial risks that could (and almost did in the fall of 2008) bring down the entire economy is to spread risk-taking over thousands of small banks rather than centralize it in four or five giant ones.
The giants already account for a large percentage of the entire GDP.
Because traders and investors know they're too big to fail, these banks have a huge competitive advantage over smaller banks. This advantage will make them even bigger in coming years, and make the economy even more vulnerable to them.

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