This is a must-read. You know, I cannot believe I’m writing this, but Barack Obama is making Bill Clinton look more the statesman every day. The best thing for Bill Clinton’s legacy has been Barack Obama’s boneheadedness. Here is the analysis:
As for the sins of “deregulation” more broadly, this is a political fairy tale. The least regulated of our financial institutions — hedge funds — have posed the least systemic risks in the current panic. The big investment banks that got into the most trouble could have made the same mortgage investments before 1999 as they did afterwards. One of their problems was that Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns weren’t diversified enough. They prospered for years through direct lending and high leverage via the likes of asset-backed securities without accepting commercial deposits. But when the panic hit, this meant they lacked an adequate capital cushion to absorb losses.
Meanwhile, commercial banks that had heavier capital requirements were struggling to compete with the Wall Street giants throughout the 1990s. Some of the deposit-taking banks that were allowed to diversify after 1999, such as J.P. Morgan and Bank of America, are now in a stronger position to withstand the current turmoil. They have been able to help stabilize the financial system through acquisitions of Bear Stearns, Washington Mutual, Merrill Lynch and Countrywide Financial.
Mr. Obama’s “deregulation” trope may be good politics, but it’s bad history and is dangerous if he really believes it. The U.S. is going to need a stable, innovative financial system after this panic ends, and we won’t get that if Mr. Obama and his media chorus think the answer is to return to Depression-era rules amid global financial competition. Perhaps the Senator should ask the former President for a briefing.