Thursday, January 21, 2010

Obama Stumbles on Glass-Steagall

How Novel!

It looks like Barack Obama has reverted back to stage one of the Obama Learning Curve, 'unconsciously insular'.

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His latest bright idea involves re-instituting the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. Could this possibly be the same kind of overreaction which helped to prolong the Great Depression? After all, the Depression didn't officially end until 1941. Obama constantly blames the 8 year Presidency of George W. Bush for our current economic woes, yet Glass-Steagall was repealed in 1999. I mean all you hear from this guy is the same tired whine about the 'failed policies of the Bush Administration'. But then what does he do? He reverts to the failed policies of the FDR Administration.

Background

"In 1933, in the wake of the 1929 stock market crash and during a nationwide commercial bank failure and the Great Depression, two members of Congress put their names on what is known today as the Glass-Steagall Act (GSA). This act separated investment and commercial banking activities. At the time, "improper banking activity", or what was considered overzealous commercial bank involvement in stock market investment, was deemed the main culprit of the financial crash. According to that reasoning, commercial banks took on too much risk with depositors' money..."

I thought our current dilemma was caused by a housing related bubble, not by commercial banks investing too much money in the stock market. In our time, banks took on too much risk by investing in risky home loans. Loans which were promoted by 'liberal' politicians under the false ideology that it was somehow a Natural, God-given, Right for everyone to own a home.

Reasons for the Act - Commercial Speculation

"Commercial banks were accused of being too speculative in the pre-Depression era, not only because they were investing their assets but also because they were buying new issues for resale to the public. Thus, banks became greedy, taking on huge risks in the hope of even bigger rewards. Banking itself became sloppy and objectives became blurred. Unsound loans were issued to companies in which the bank had invested, and clients would be encouraged to invest in those same stocks."

Hmmm. This doesn't even sound remotely related to our present woes.

Effects of the Act - Creating Barriers

"Senator Carter Glass, a former Treasury secretary and the founder of the U.S. Federal Reserve System, was the primary force behind the GSA. Henry Bascom Steagall was a House of Representatives member and chairman of the House Banking and Currency Committee. Steagall agreed to support the act with Glass after an amendment was added permitting bank deposit insurance (this was the first time it was allowed)."

It is interesting to note that even Glass himself moved to repeal the GSA shortly after it was passed, claiming it was an overreaction to the crisis.

An Overreaction to the Crisis?

It seems to me that all Obama has done is to stumble upon a method of prolonging the economic crisis. Instead of embracing obvious policies which have helped America out of every single recession since World War II (i.e. across the board tax cuts, and allowing the free market to correct itself), Obama has not only failed to come up with new ideas, he has 'dug up' the old tried and failed policies of the 1930's. And this is the guy you were waiting for?

Barack 'Carter Glass' Obama could do us all a favor by just getting out of the way. If he would just sit down and hush up, the free market will eventually reach equilibrium. Sometimes it's best not to meddle. You know what they say, "Jack of all trades; Master of none."

Finally, what was it again which finally broke the Great Depression?

"Only when the federal government imposed rationing, recruited 6 million defense workers (including women and African Americans), drafted 6 million soldiers, and ran massive deficits to fight World War II did the Great Depression finally end."

Is it possible that the War on Terror was our salvation, and not a mistake?

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http://www.nps.gov/archive/elro/glossary/great-depression.htm

http://www.investopedia.com/articles/03/071603.asp

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