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Hullabaloo


Monday, March 17, 2014

 
"It's an international race to the bottom"

by David Atkins

Thomas Frank has an interesting little interview with legendary S&L loan regulator Bill Black in Salon:

It is even more infuriating to realize that the correct answers to the test have been available to Professor Obama all along. Back in September of 2008, when the financial crisis was gathering speed, I was writing a column for the Wall Street Journal; in my efforts to comprehend the disaster, I learned that the nation’s foremost authority on the type of fraud that had wrecked the economy was a former S&L regulator named Bill Black. I went on to ask Bill Black’s opinion probably dozens of times; as the years passed and the crisis deepened, Bill Black went on to be quoted by just about everyone and to become probably the most famous former S&L regulator in the world. His doctrine of “control fraud” is today familiar to anyone trying to understand what went wrong in 2008.

Another group that sought out my friend Bill Black during the crisis year was the Obama campaign. For them he narrated a twelve-minute campaign video, describing at length the involvement of Republican candidate John McCain in the Keating Five scandal, and faulting McCain for choosing a zealous deregulator as his chief economic adviser—“he’s picked the worst possible source of advice.” (You can watch the video here.)

When Obama won the presidency, I assumed that Bill Black would soon be moving to Washington to usher prominent bankers through their perp walks. That’s what opportunity and meritocracy meant, after all. You bring in the guy who understands the problem.

Of course it never happened. His phone never rang. There was no ladder of opportunity for him or anyone like him, precisely because they represented accountability. And Barack Obama, champion of meritocracy, went on instead to pick the second-worst-possible source of advice.

When I ask Bill Black now what these last few years tell us about fairness and meritocracy, he refers me to Gresham’s law. “If you gain a competitive advantage by cheating,” he says, “then you won’t get a meritocracy, you’ll get a system where cheaters prosper and bad ethics drive good ethics out of the market.” Is that what kept him out of Washington, I ask? Yes, in part. It’s “the international race to the bottom, which the administration has largely adopted. ‘We can’t crack down [on the banks, the administration thinks,] they’ll all move to the City of London. We need to have the JOBS bill,’ a godsend to fraudsters, ‘because too many IPOs are being done in China instead of the United States.’ ”

“People like me were moved out long ago,” Black concludes. To a government “trying to signal continuity and friendliness to the banks,” his presence would have been, he supposes, more than a little discordant.
This is a crucial point to understand. But in fairness the Obama Administration isn't the only one to think this way. No less a progressive thinker than Thomas Piketty agrees, which is why he advocates nothing less than global wealth taxes in order to prevent capital mobility.

Every country out there is terrified that if they crack down on their own banksters, the vulture finance parasites will punish that by moving the capital out of their neck of the globe. There may be some truth to that.

The nations of the world need to realize that it's better to work together than apart, and that every government worldwide is threatened by the same group of jet setting plutocrats holding all of us hostage. Placing international regulations on global capital and making pariah states out of those who harbor plutocratic money will ultimately be absolutely necessary as the human race progresses.


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