Thursday, October 7, 2010

Christopher Whalen, managing director at Institutional Risk Analytics, made the following criticism of the Obama Administration at an American Enterprise Institute event where it was likely received warmly despite the fact that it really applies at least as well to the Bush administration.
Failure by the Obama administration to restructure the largest banks during 2007-2009 period only means that this process is going to occur over next three to five years — whether we like it or not.
From the start of the TARP bailouts I thought the Bush and then the Obama Administrations were wrong to neglect major restructuring of the big banks, both with respect to the "too big to fail" moral hazard and with allowing institutions responsible for protecting pension and trust funds to indulge in hedge fund style speculation with exotic derivatives. No doubt the bankers were telling the politicians that reform in the midst of the crisis would be "too disruptive". I don't believe that. The main disruption would have been to the banker's bonuses and, in some instances, their continued employment. The toxic asset positions were going to take a while to unwind and have to be carried on government books in any case and everything else could have been managed with conventional bankruptcy tools.

With the Obama Administration especially, every interest group from banks to health insurers to oil drillers to Pentagon brass is able to intimidate it into ignominious forfeit of the broader public interest.

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