Friday, March 05, 2010

FRONTLINE: the warning: watch the full program online | PBS

Greenspan, Rubin and Summers ultimately prevailed on Congress to stop Born and limit future regulation of derivatives. "Born faced a formidable struggle pushing for regulation at a time when the stock market was booming," Kirk says. "Alan Greenspan was the maestro, and both parties in Washington were united in a belief that the markets would take care of themselves."

Now, with many of the same men who shut down Born in key positions in the Obama administration, The Warning reveals the complicated politics that led to this crisis and what it may say about current attempts to prevent the next one.
Thanks for that link. There was a lot of good information in that and presented in mostly a non-partisan way. Interestingly not one mention of Bush and his appointees who let the status quo stand. Some other things omitted though:

Greenspan admitted his mistake, as did Levitt, the others didn't. He is often associated with Ayn Rand, but I have a feeling she would disavow any association with how he earned his living during his latter years. Even though the documentary touched on this, the implication is left that all our problems can be drawn back to this free market concept. Ayn Rand would be in favor of fraud? Talk about derivatives...that's not derivable from the facts. Rand's heros were people who got their hands dirty. An architect comfortable with showing up at a construction site. A railroad tycoon. And inventor. If anything it would be the villains in her books that would sit in a tower and manipulate spreadsheets without connection to any underlying reality.

Also noticeably missing were Greenspan's pronouncements of "irrational exuberance" that preceded the Clinton recession. The same recession that Rubin was making phone calls to postpone until they were out of office. Greenspan's other mantra, that I've seen him utter hundreds of times during congressional testimony was that the growth of government spending, entitlements and so on were unsustainable.

Let's simplify: All these evils are the same, whether it is unsustainable spending, or derivatives based on commodities that don't exist, in both cases we are printing money that isn't based on anything real. We traded irrational exuberance in the Internet economy to irrational exuberance in the real estate market and now we'll transfer that exuberance to unfunded future mandates regarding health care and solar panels. In all cases the outcome will be an eventual crash when reality rears its ugly head.

Each generation of politicos tries to maintain the illusion until they are out of office or retire. The increasing numbers of retirements are explained by the insiders view that time is running out, the music is about to stop and you had better be ready to grab a chair or be left standing. And as with the children's game, there are fewer and fewer chairs left.

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