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Hullabaloo


Monday, May 03, 2010

 
The Little People Don't Understand

by digby

This is damning stuff:

As top Federal Reserve officials debated whether there was a housing bubble and what to do about it, then-Chairman Alan Greenspan argued that the dissent should be kept secret so that the Fed wouldn't lose control of the debate to people less well-informed than themselves.

"We run the risk, by laying out the pros and cons of a particular argument, of inducing people to join in on the debate, and in this regard it is possible to lose control of a process that only we fully understand," Greenspan said, according to the transcripts of a March 2004 meeting.

Only he now says that he was the one who didn't fully understand:

"I have found a flaw" in free market theory, Greenspan said under intense questioning by Representative Henry Waxman, the Democratic chairman of the Government Oversight Committee of the House of Representatives. "I don't know how significant or permanent it is," Greenspan added. "But I have been very distressed by that fact."

"I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms," Greenspan said.

Waxman pushed the former Fed chief, who left office in 2006, to clarify his explanation.

"In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working," Waxman said.

"Absolutely, precisely," Greenspan replied. "You know, that's precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well."

After listening to the BP executives pretty much say the same thing, can we now see the pattern of elite corruption and malfeasance? How about the Catholic Church? Or the CIA?

It's not like there aren't, in every case, people who dissent:

At the same meeting, a Federal Reserve bank president from Atlanta, Jack Guynn, warned that "a number of folks are expressing growing concern about potential overbuilding and worrisome speculation in the real estate markets, especially in Florida. Entire condo projects and upscale residential lots are being pre-sold before any construction, with buyers freely admitting that they have no intention of occupying the units or building on the land but rather are counting on 'flipping' the properties--selling them quickly at higher prices."

Had Guynn's warning been heeded and the housing market cooled, the financial collapse of 2008 could have been avoided. But his comment was kept secret until Friday, when the central bank released the transcripts of Federal Open Market Committee meetings for 2004 and CalculatedRisk spotted it. The transcripts for 2005 to the present are still secret.

They didn't want to spoil the party. After all a lot of people were making a lot of money. And nobody wanted the "little people" who don't understand how the world works interference. Like the congress:
In little-noticed statements to reporters over the last few weeks, Pelosi has alleged that the Bush administration knew well in advance of its intervention that the financial crisis would hit, and that Congress would need to authorize a historic and unpopular bailout - but that top officials, including then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, told her that they had been barred from briefing Congress about true extent of the crisis.

If accurate, the allegation could constitute a major indictment of the Bush administration, which may have worsened the crisis and resulting economic fallout by delaying the call for congressional action. Pelosi says the admissions from Bush administration officials that they had kept Congress in the dark came in private conversations between her and those officials in person and by phone. None of the other parties to those conversations would comment for this story. Nor is it clear if the Administration's alleged decision not to brief Congress earlier was a calculated strategy to avoid spooking the already shaky financial markets thus hastening the crisis or, as Pelosi suggests, a political calculation in advance of the 2008 presidential elections, or a combination of the two.

Read on.

But whatever we do, let's not look in the rearview mirror and hold anyone responsible for anything. That would be counterproductive. Accountability is for the little people.

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