Sunday, 5 July 2009

Do the banks own the US government?

Here are the views of a Guardian journalist, Dean Baker, who thinks they do:

Last month, when the US Congress failed to pass a bankruptcy reform measure that would have allowed home mortgages to be modified in bankruptcy, senator Dick Durbin succinctly commented: "The banks own the place." That seems pretty clear.

After all, it was the banks' greed that fed the housing bubble with loony loans that were guaranteed to go bad. Of course the finance guys also made a fortune guaranteeing the loans that were guaranteed to go bad (ie AIG), and when everything went bust, the taxpayers got handed the bill. The cost of the bailout will certainly be in the hundreds of billions, if not more than $1tn when it is all over.

More importantly, we are looking at the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression. The cumulative lost output over the years 2008-2012 will almost certainly exceed $5tn. That comes to more than $60,000 for an average family of four. This is the price that we are paying for the bankers' greed, coupled with incredible incompetence and/or corruption from our regulators.

Under these circumstances, it would be reasonable to think that the bankers would be keeping a low profile for a while. That's not the way it works in Washington. The banks are aggressively pushing their case in Congress and Obama administration. Not only are we not going to see bankruptcy reform, but any financial reform package that gets through Congress will probably contain enough loopholes that it will be almost useless.

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