Sunday, October 12, 2008

No to Dodd, Raines, Frank and Obama; yes to Volcker

The first four are great at cutting deals for themselves, playing race cards and other such activities that help themselves.

But what about the rest of us?

One person I’m looking to for understanding and advice during the current market turmoil is former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker.

From Market Watch this - - -

The United States has the tools to turn the financial tide and restore confidence in the market, says Paul Volcker, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1979 to 1987.

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Volcker says financial authorities in the United States and elsewhere are now in a position to take “needed and convincing action to stabilize markets and to restore trust.”

A recession appears inevitable now, Volcker writes.

However, "there is now a clear recognition that the problem is international and international coordination and cooperation is both necessary and under way."

The coordinated global cut in central bank interest rates is one sign of this commitment.

"More important ... is the clear determination of our Treasury, of European finance ministers, and of central banks to support and defend the stability of major international banks," Volcker says.

Adding to the U.S. effort at bolster the market, Volcker points out, are the higher limits on deposit insurance and the recent bailout legislation authorizing the purchase of troubled debt, including mortgages. …

Two items follow - - -

The first is the full text of Volcker’s WSJ op-ed yesterday. Then below the star line I give the last word to a person experienced in business whom I respect for many reasons, including his concern for America and his appreciation of how important a capitalist system is to our well-being.

Here’s Volcker on 10/10/08 - - -

Today, the financial crisis has reached a critical point. The sharp decline in the stock market and its volatility dramatically make the point. More important if less visible, the flow of credit through the banking system and the financial markets is seriously impaired -- even in part frozen.

For months, the real economy, apart from housing, had not been much affected by the developing crisis. Now, a full-scale recession appears unavoidable. Important state and local governments face deficits they may be unable to finance. Recessionary forces are apparent in other important countries and exchange rates are unstable.

Those are facts.

They are the culmination of economic imbalances, a succession of financial bubbles and financial crises that have been building for years. It's no wonder that confidence in markets, banks, and financial management has been badly eroded.

Without effective action, fear might take hold, threatening orderly recovery.

Fortunately, there is also good reason to believe that the means are now available to turn the tide. Financial authorities, in the United States and elsewhere, are now in a position to take needed and convincing action to stabilize markets and to restore trust.

First of all, there is now clear recognition that the problem is international, and international coordination and cooperation is both necessary and underway. The days of finger pointing and schadenfreude are over. The concerted reduction in central bank interest rates is one concrete manifestation of that fact.

More important in existing circumstances is the clear determination of our Treasury, of European finance ministries, and of central banks to support and defend the stability of major international banks.

That approach extends to providing fresh capital to supplement private funds if necessary.

In the U.S., with higher limits of deposit insurance in place, the FDIC has demonstrated its ability to protect depositors, to arrange mergers, and to provide capital for troubled banks. Most other countries now have a comparable capacity.

Recent U.S. legislation has provided authority for large-scale direct intervention by the Treasury in the mortgage and other troubled markets. Along with increased purchases by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, now under government control, means of restoring needed liquidity are at hand.

Other key sectors of financial markets are now protected or supported by either the Treasury or Federal Reserve, specifically by temporary insurance of money-market funds and by direct purchase of commercial paper.

Active efforts are underway to develop stronger netting, clearing and settlement arrangements for certain derivatives, in particular the notional trillions of credit default swaps, the absence of which has contributed to uncertainty and large demands for scarce collateral.

None of that is easy. Some of it poses risks for the taxpayer. All of it is decidedly unattractive in the sense of large official intervention in what should be private markets able to stand on their own feet.

Unattractive or not in normal circumstances, the point is the needed tools to restore and maintain functioning markets are there. Now is the time to use them.

To that end, the immediate and critical need is determined, forceful and persistent leadership -- extending across administrations and Congresses. Both the public and private sectors must be involved.

The inevitable recession can be moderated.

The groundwork can be laid for reconstructing the financial system and the regulatory and supervisory arrangements from the bottom up.

The extraordinary interventions by the government (and taxpayer) should be ended as soon as reasonably feasible.

That rebuilding will be the job of another day -- of a new administration here in the U.S., of finance ministries and central banks working together.

It must draw upon the strength of the now chastened private sector.

It will require more understanding of the risks embedded in so-called financial engineering and of the perverse compensation incentives that have exalted risk over prudence.

There is, and must be, recognition of the essential role that free and competitive financial markets play in a vigorous, innovative economic system.

There needs to be understanding, in that context, that financial ups and downs -- and financial crises -- will be inevitable, even with responsible economic policies and sensible regulation.

But never again should so much economic damage be risked by a financial structure so fragile, so overextended, so opaque as that of recent years.


Now the last word to that “person experienced in business whom I respect for many reasons."

Volcker is very smart and experienced - he chaired the Fed and helped get us out of the economic mess that Carter and the Democrat Congress presided over during the late 1970's. …

What Volcker is saying sounds reasonable. Basically he is calling for appropriate government intervention for a temporary period and then govt. getting out --- I guess you could call it temporary socialism.

I still believe that a free market economy is our best chance for growth and prosperity. However, we are in extraordinarily difficult economic times which may call for extraordinary measures, i.e. big govt. intervention.

Hopefully this socialistic approach will , as Mr. Volcker suggests, be temporary. If big govt. involvement is permanent, I fear our economic problems will be also.


Anonymous said...

Off-topic: Just now I saw a video clip of a Gov. Palin rally. In the crowd a group of young women held a sign that read:


Not all the young are under the spell of the mass marketed one.

Anonymous said...

My kinda women!!
Tarheel Hawkeye

Anonymous said...

Re: “My kinda women!!"
Tarheel Hawkeye
Better than that were the women holding the signs. Even though it was a quick look, no dour 'NOW', unhappy hags were evident.

bill anderson said...


On Volcker's comments, all I can say is that I am glad he did not make those recommendations in 1982, when we were mired in recession. The Fed held strong, got inflation out of our system, and set the stage for a very good recovery.

While Jack in Silver Spring does disagree with my Austrian points, nonetheless the Austrians have been right all along in this present crisis. (Actually, I think "malinvestment" is a better term than "over investment" or something in that order, in that we saw lines of investment going in the wrong directions, and those lines could not be sustained.)

Volcker makes an important error when he claims that these bailouts can prevent a more severe recession. To the contrary, I believe that they will make the downturn worse because (1) they encourage the wrong lines of investments and (2) they ultimately cannibalize the healthy companies in order to prop up the sick ones.

As Jim Rogers recently said on one of the cable shows, during a recovery, the companies with the good fundamentals lead the way. However, the government's actions have continued to prop up the companies with bad fundamentals. This does not bode well for a strong recovery.