Financial Crisis Inquiry

January 14, 2010

By Padmini Arhant

Today, the financial crisis inquiry commission summoned the financial sector executives to investigate the activities that primarily contributed to the financial market’s downward spiraling and led the economy to the brink of collapse. The inquiry is a step in the right direction to convey a strong message that no one is above the law and democracy cannot be undermined.

Although, the executives are perceptive in self-defense and evading responsibility for the financial meltdown, the fact of the matter is, these financial moguls capitalized on the economic vulnerabilities during the Bush administration. It’s generated from the deregulations and substantial prime rate reduction alluring average citizens with a political slogan that linked patriotism to home ownership.

More concessions were offered by the Bush-Cheney Presidency through massive tax cuts for corporations, financial institutions and the wealthy individuals boosting the investment banks’ portfolio, thereby driving them from equity markets to speculative trading.

It created an enormous capital infusion with investment banks competing with the commercial banks in the absence of Glass Steagall Act. Followed by AIG collaborating in the insurance deals on the credit borrowings invested in derivatives and hedge funds with risky assets as collateral and underlying value further exacerbated the risk management.

When the bubble burst, so did their balance sheets. It went disarray with the majority lead players burdened with toxic assets that transformed into dead weight liabilities in the form of large risk exposure eroding their capital and solvency, consequently relying on the taxpayer bailout to salvage the financial market and the economy.

Apart from the financial institutions, the architects behind the policies since the early nineties are equally responsible for the debacle.

For instance, the former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan,

The former treasury secretary Henry Paulson and the current treasury secretary Timothy Geithner,

The present Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke along with the financial team under the Obama administration represent the convenient exchanges between the Wall Street and Washington through the revolving door of Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and the Lehman Brothers prior to being acquired by Barclays…to name a few.

As found in other national issues such as health care, communication and energy, the prevalent culture between Washington and Wall Street is a huge conflict of interest leaving the average taxpayers and consumers at the mercy of the “corporate owned government” enterprise.

Investigation is necessary to determine the cause of the status quo. However, it’s significant to have the financial sector pledge to revive the credit market through liquidity flow to small businesses and corporations. It would jumpstart the economy, since financing businesses and corporations positively impact the job market. Meanwhile, the manufacturing sector could be resurrected pervasively, producing the desirable drastic unemployment contraction.

Simultaneously, the finance industry is required to stimulate the real estate and construction areas of the economy. Considering the dismal job growth accompanied by the plummeting residential and commercial real estate values due to the sub-prime mortgage fiasco,

The financial institutions should invigorate the financing and refinancing options to homeowners and commercial estate holders by offering reasonable, incentivized programs that would allow the property owners to comply with the payments and retain the values respectively. The viable strategy would ease the burden on the lender and the mortgagee leading to the property value appreciation.

President Obama’s proposal to levy taxes against the financial institutions that have benefited from the taxpayer bailout is right on target. Not surprisingly, the financial industry is resisting the tax, estimated to yield $120 billion in revenue for the ailing economy. Taxpayers from bottom up shared the trillions of dollars finance industry bailout.

Having stabilized the balance sheets from the massive interjection of funds, the institutions are now challenging the government against the tax proposal by warning that any such levies in the form of fees and taxes would be hurting the consumers, claiming that the customer will ultimately bear the charges through bank fee hikes.

Alternatively, the banks are threatening to move jobs overseas upon any tax or fee imposition.
Despite the pre-existing exorbitant fee and charges applied to banking transactions, the banks’ retaliation to tax proposal via potential fee increase or job export is not only outrageous but also audacious.

Financial sector being the economy’s engine, the credit flow across the spectrum is pertinent to the swift economic recovery including the financial market gains.

The financial institutions’ lack of concern for ethics and the excessive greed triggered the financial market crisis ultimately affecting the global economy. Therefore, there is an urgent requirement for aggressive financial reform to prevent history repeating itself in the near future.

Thank you.

Padmini Arhant


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