Friday, March 19, 2010

Deregulated out of existence

The Securities and Exchange Commission is the government's lead regulator of Wall Street and the formerly high-flying banks like Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, etc.

But history will show that the SEC, far from doing its job as a regulator, may have actually abetted the criminality that has led to $10 trillion in losses. As but one example, during the Bush years SEC enforcement actions fell 90 percent. One SEC investigator, in fact, was fired after merely asking to interview a Wall Street bigwig!

Hamstringing government, especially regulation of business is one of the central themes of Republican ideology. Whatever issues they might campaign on, when Republicans gain power deregulation is always attended to. The Neocons actually convinced gullible press and politicians that business would voluntarily regulate itself, a near-religious belief that one of its chief proponents, Alan Greenspan, has admitted was a gross failure of his economic worldview.

Republicans either gut regulations, or simply don't enforce them. In this regard the failure of the SEC, far from being seen as a disaster, is actually a successful application of a Republican ideology which doesn't believe in the legitimacy of government.

Today comes news that the SEC was in fact warned of Lehman Brothers illegal book keeping months before the behemoth bank collapsed, triggering the housing, stock market and financial collapse. Like in the case of Bernie Madoff, it seems absolutely nothing could get the attention of the SEC.

The fact that in real life the ideology and policy of deregulation led to social and economic disaster seems not to have led to a reconsideration by political or media leaders that corrective regulation is needed, and lots of it.

New controls won't happen for two reasons: 1) As Dick Durbin said, despite being bailed out by the taxpayers, the banks still own Washington, and 2) The Right has an institutional apparatus in the form of think tanks and advocacy groups working year round demonizing regulation and telling lies about its supposed negative effects.

Ironically one tangible group of victims in this anti-regulation fraud are the formerly regulated banks, who through their own megalomania got themselves deregulated out of existence.

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