With Wall Street Shorting the Dollar

It is Time for Congress to Pursue Fundamental Change - Published on Huffington Post, by David Paul, December 14, 2009.

Just imagine how angry the American public would be if they knew the whole story. For months, we have listened to the whining from Wall Street. U.S. banks are having a record year, and they want to be paid a lot of money. Billions and billions of dollars.

Public indignation is deep. After all, over the past year, we have watched as hundreds of billions of dollars of public money has been poured into bank balance sheets. We have–we are assured–taken steps that were necessary to bring our financial system back from the brink. We may not have liked it, but we had no choice …

… It is time to go back to basics. Commercial banks provide essential services in our economy. They enable the Fed to control the distribution and pricing of capital to the productive sectors of the economy. They provide secure depositary and asset management services. 

Unfortunately, pending Congressional legislation has done nothing to address the central risks that the new financial landscape presents to our economy. Rather than reinstitute restrictions on bank activities or restrain institution size, Congress is looking to regulatory solutions that hold little promise of success when the next crisis emerges. And rather than recognizing the problem of moral hazard, this week Congress took the first step of embracing it in statute.

This year, Wall Street has shown its true colors, but the public has yet to understand the depth of the betrayal. It is not the continuing absence of lending, or jacking up credit card fees, or hiking consumer interest rates, or even the constant refrain of complaints about limitations on executive compensation. No, the greatest betrayal is that with the American economy as weak as it has been in years, with the dollar weakness threatening to unravel the international commitment to the role of the dollar as the reserve currency, Wall Street has shown no shame about attacking the currency of the nation that came to its aid.

If this is the path that the elite commercial banks have chosen, if they have been fully seduced by the lucre of trading, Congress needs to revisit the fundamental rules of the game, and revisit the central rationale for deposit insurance and the structure of the commercial banking system.

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