Glass Steagall Act
Financial Services Modernization Act
1933again.com


3/28/2009

The slow death of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 and the terrible "financial meltdown" we now find ourselves in.
 


 From the wise men who saw the problem and passed it
 (note they didn't smile that much back in 1933)

 To the politicians that were bought off for $300,000,000 to get rid of it
 (all smiles!)

So, how did we get into this mess, how did we get lead into spending Trillions of dollars on some banking nonsense?

And no one is to blame, everyone just has solutions.  If they caused the whole problem, they aren't talking about it.

The key is pretty simple.  Same problem they had back in 1933 when there was no separation between banks and stock market speculators.  The Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 was passed just to make that separation, to prevent this from happening again.  And then those who want to fleece us for trillions of dollars slowly nibbled away at it till, finally, in 1999 they got rid of it completely.  The one tool designed to keep us out of trouble.  Critics said we would be likely in the mess we are in right about now.  They were ignored.

First read this article from about ten years ago, the obituary for the Glass-Steagall Act.  (I have highlighted some important parts).  And then read the history of the rape of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, how we were sold out for about 300 Million (with an M) dollars spent "lobbying" our representatives and their agencies.

Read how we knew what went wrong in 1933, how it was fixed, and then how you and I were sold out.

   CONGRESS PASSES WIDE-RANGING BILL EASING BANK LAWS (NYTimes)

   The Long Demise of the Glass-Steagall Act (PBS)

   Shattering the Glass-Steagall Act (CounterPunch.org)


A quick update:

2010

A very carefully watered down version of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 called The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is passed.

 12/15/2014

They start gutting Dodd-Frank:

Paul Krugman

Last week Congress passed a bill to maintain funding for the U.S. government into next year, and included in that bill was a rollback of one provision of the 2010 financial reform.

In itself, this rollback is significant but not a fatal blow to reform. But it’s utterly indefensible. The incoming congressional majority has revealed its agenda — and it’s all about rewarding bad actors.

So, about that provision. One of the goals of financial reform was to stop banks from taking big risks with depositors’ money. Why? Well, bank deposits are insured against loss, and this creates a well-known problem of “moral hazard”: If banks are free to gamble, they can play a game of heads we win, tails the taxpayers lose. That’s what happened after savings-and-loan institutions were deregulated in the 1980s, and promptly ran wild.

Dodd-Frank tried to limit this kind of moral hazard in various ways, including a rule barring insured institutions from dealing in exotic securities, the kind that played such a big role in the financial crisis. And that’s the rule that has just been rolled back.

Now, this isn’t the death of financial reform. In fact, I’d argue that regulating insured banks is something of a sideshow, since the 2008 crisis was brought on mainly by uninsured institutions like Lehman Brothers and A.I.G. The really important parts of reform involve consumer protection and the enhanced ability of regulators both to police the actions of “systemically important” financial institutions (which needn’t be conventional banks) and to take such institutions into receivership at times of crisis.

But what Congress did is still outrageous — and both sides of the ideological divide should agree. After all, even if you believe (in defiance of the lessons of history) that financial institutions can be trusted to police themselves, even if you believe the grotesquely false narrative that bleeding-heart liberals caused the financial crisis by pressuring banks to lend to poor people, especially minority borrowers, you should be against letting Wall Street play games with government-guaranteed funds. What just went down isn’t about free-market economics; it’s pure crony capitalism.

And sure enough, Citigroup literally wrote the deregulation language that was inserted into the funding bill.  

(from .http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/15/opinion/paul-krugman-dodd-frank-damaged-by-the-budget-bill.html)



First, from http://www.nytimes.com/1999/11/05/business/congress-passes-wide-ranging-bill-easing-bank-laws.html:



November 5, 1999

CONGRESS PASSES WIDE-RANGING BILL EASING BANK LAWS

By STEPHEN LABATON
Congress approved landmark legislation today that opens the door for a new era on Wall Street in which commercial banks, securities houses and insurers will find it easier and cheaper to enter one another's businesses.

The measure, considered by many the most important banking legislation in 66 years, was approved in the Senate by a vote of 90 to 8 and in the House tonight by 362 to 57. The bill will now be sent to the president, who is expected to sign it, aides said. It would become one of the most significant achievements this year by the White House and the Republicans leading the 106th Congress.

''Today Congress voted to update the rules that have governed financial services since the Great Depression and replace them with a system for the 21st century,'' Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers said. ''This historic legislation will better enable American companies to compete in the new economy.''

The decision to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 provoked dire warnings from a handful of dissenters that the deregulation of Wall Street would someday wreak havoc on the nation's financial system. The original idea behind Glass-Steagall was that separation between bankers and brokers would reduce the potential conflicts of interest that were thought to have contributed to the speculative stock frenzy before the Depression.

Today's action followed a rich Congressional debate about the history of finance in America in this century, the causes of the banking crisis of the 1930's, the globalization of banking and the future of the nation's economy.

Administration officials and many Republicans and Democrats said the measure would save consumers billions of dollars and was necessary to keep up with trends in both domestic and international banking.  Some institutions, like Citigroup, already have banking, insurance and securities arms but could have been forced to divest their insurance underwriting under existing law. Many foreign banks already enjoy the ability to enter the securities and insurance industries.

''The world changes, and we have to change with it,'' said Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, who wrote the law that will bear his name along with the two other main Republican sponsors, Representative Jim Leach of Iowa and Representative Thomas J. Bliley Jr. of Virginia. ''We have a new century coming, and we have an opportunity to dominate that century the same way we dominated this century.  Glass-Steagall, in the midst of the Great Depression, came at a time when the thinking was that the government was the answer. In this era of economic prosperity, we have decided that freedom is the answer.''

In the House debate, Mr. Leach said, ''This is a historic day. The landscape for delivery of financial services will now surely shift.''

But consumer groups and civil rights advocates criticized the legislation for being a sop to the nation's biggest financial institutions. They say that it fails to protect the privacy interests of consumers and community lending standards for the disadvantaged and that it will create more problems than it solves.

The opponents of the measure gloomily predicted that by unshackling banks and enabling them to move more freely into new kinds of financial activities, the new law could lead to an economic crisis down the road when the marketplace is no longer growing briskly.

''I think we will look back in 10 years' time and say we should not have done this but we did because we forgot the lessons of the past, and that that which is true in the 1930's is true in 2010,'' said Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota. ''I wasn't around during the 1930's or the debate over Glass-Steagall. But I was here in the early 1980's when it was decided to allow the expansion of savings and loans. We have now decided in the name of modernization to forget the lessons of the past, of safety and of soundness.''

Senator Paul Wellstone, Democrat of Minnesota, said that Congress had ''seemed determined to unlearn the lessons from our past mistakes.''

''Scores of banks failed in the Great Depression as a result of unsound banking practices, and their failure only deepened the crisis,'' Mr. Wellstone said. ''Glass-Steagall was intended to protect our financial system by insulating commercial banking from other forms of risk. It was one of several stabilizers designed to keep a similar tragedy from recurring. Now Congress is about to repeal that economic stabilizer without putting any comparable safeguard in its place.''

Supporters of the legislation rejected those arguments. They responded that historians and economists have concluded that the Glass-Steagall Act was not the correct response to the banking crisis because it was the failure of the Federal Reserve in carrying out monetary policy, not speculation in the stock market, that caused the collapse of 11,000 banks. If anything, the supporters said, the new law will give financial companies the ability to diversify and therefore reduce their risks. The new law, they said, will also give regulators new tools to supervise shaky institutions.

''The concerns that we will have a meltdown like 1929 are dramatically overblown,'' said Senator Bob Kerrey, Democrat of Nebraska.

Others said the legislation was essential for the future leadership of the American banking system.

''If we don't pass this bill, we could find London or Frankfurt or years down the road Shanghai becoming the financial capital of the world,'' said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York. ''There are many reasons for this bill, but first and foremost is to ensure that U.S. financial firms remain competitive.''

But other lawmakers criticized the provisions of the legislation aimed at discouraging community groups from pressing banks to make more loans to the disadvantaged. Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, said during the House debate that the legislation was ''mean-spirited in the way it had tried to undermine the Community Reinvestment Act.'' And Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, said it was ironic that while the legislation was deregulating financial services, it had begun a new system of onerous regulation on community advocates.

Many experts predict that, even though the legislation has been trailing market trends that have begun to see the cross-ownership of banks, securities firms and insurers, the new law is certain to lead to a wave of large financial mergers.

The White House has estimated the legislation could save consumers as much as $18 billion a year as new financial conglomerates gain economies of scale and cut costs.

Other experts have disputed those estimates as overly optimistic, and said that the bulk of any profits seen from the deregulation of financial services would be returned not to customers but to shareholders.

These are some of the key provisions of the legislation:

*Banks will be able to affiliate with insurance companies and securities concerns with far fewer restrictions than in the past.

*The legislation preserves the regulatory structure in Washington and gives the Federal Reserve and the Office of Comptroller of the Currency roles in regulating new financial conglomerates. The Securities and Exchange Commission will oversee securities operations at any bank, and the states will continue to regulate insurance.

*It will be more difficult for industrial companies to control a bank. The measure closes a loophole that had permitted a number of commercial enterprises to open savings associations known as unitary thrifts.

One Republican Senator, Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, voted against the legislation. He was joined by seven Democrats: Barbara Boxer of California, Richard H. Bryan of Nevada, Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland, Mr. Dorgan and Mr. Wellstone.

In the House, 155 Democrats and 207 Republicans voted for the measure, while 51 Democrats, 5 Republicans and 1 independent opposed it. Fifteen members did not vote.

Tucked away in the legislation is a provision that some experts today warned could cost insurance policyholders as much as $50 billion. The provision would allow mutual insurance companies to move to other states to avoid payments they would otherwise owe policyholders as they reorganize their corporate structure. Many states, including New York and New Jersey, do not allow such relocations without the consent of the insurer's domicile state. But the legislation before Congress would pre-empt the states.

Both the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and the Prudential Life Insurance Company are in the midst of reorganizing into stock-based corporations that are requiring them to pay billions of dollars to policyholders from years of accumulated surplus. In exchange, the policyholders give up their ownership in the mutual insurance company.

The legislation would permit any mutual insurance company to avoid making surplus payments to policyholders by simply moving to states with more permissive laws and setting up a hybrid corporate structure known as a mutual holding company.

The provision was inserted by Representative Bliley at the urging of a trade association. It attracted little opposition because it was attached to a provision that forbids insurers from discriminating against domestic-violence victims.

In a letter sent to Congress this week, Mr. Summers said that the provision ''could allow insurance companies to avoid state law protecting policyholders, enriching insiders at the expense of consumers.''
 


 



Next from PBS, at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/wallstreet/weill/demise.html, the whole history of what led up to lighting the ten-year fuse on the timebomb back in 1999:


 
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The Wall Street Fix FRONTLINE
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The Long Demise of Glass-Steagall
A chronology tracing the life of the Glass-Steagall Act, from its passage in 1933 to its death throes in the 1990s, and how Citigroup's Sandy Weill dealt the coup de grâce.

1933 Glass-Steagall Act creates new banking landscape
Following the Great Crash of 1929, one of every five banks in America fails. Many people, especially politicians, see market speculation engaged in by banks during the 1920s as a cause of the crash.

In 1933, Senator Carter Glass (D-Va.) and Congressman Henry Steagall (D-Ala.) introduce the historic legislation that bears their name, seeking to limit the conflicts of interest created when commercial banks are permitted to underwrite stocks or bonds. In the early part of the century, individual investors were seriously hurt by banks whose overriding interest was promoting stocks of interest and benefit to the banks, rather than to individual investors. The new law bans commercial banks from underwriting securities, forcing banks to choose between being a simple lender or an underwriter (brokerage). The act also establishes the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), insuring bank deposits, and strengthens the Federal Reserve's control over credit.

The Glass-Steagall Act passes after Ferdinand Pecora, a politically ambitious former New York City prosecutor, drums up popular support for stronger regulation by hauling bank officials in front of the Senate Banking and Currency Committee to answer for their role in the stock-market crash. 

In 1956, the Bank Holding Company Act is passed, extending the restrictions on banks, including that bank holding companies owning two or more banks cannot engage in non-banking activity and cannot buy banks in another state. 


1960s-70s First efforts to loosen Glass-Steagall restrictions
Beginning in the 1960s, banks lobby Congress to allow them to enter the municipal bond market, and a lobbying subculture springs up around Glass-Steagall. Some lobbyists even brag about how the bill put their kids through college. 

In the 1970s, some brokerage firms begin encroaching on banking territory by offering money-market accounts that pay interest, allow check-writing, and offer credit or debit cards.


1986-87 Fed begins reinterpreting Glass-Steagall; Greenspan becomes Fed chairman
In December 1986, the Federal Reserve Board, which has regulatory jurisdiction over banking, reinterprets Section 20 of the Glass-Steagall Act, which bars commercial banks from being "engaged principally" in securities business, deciding that banks can have up to 5 percent of gross revenues from investment banking business. The Fed Board then permits Bankers Trust, a commercial bank, to engage in certain commercial paper (unsecured, short-term credit) transactions. In the Bankers Trust decision, the Board concludes that the phrase "engaged principally" in Section 20 allows banks to do a small amount of underwriting, so long as it does not become a large portion of revenue. This is the first time the Fed reinterprets Section 20 to allow some previously prohibited activities. 

In the spring of 1987, the Federal Reserve Board votes 3-2 in favor of easing regulations under Glass-Steagall Act, overriding the opposition of Chairman Paul Volcker. The vote comes after the Fed Board hears proposals from Citicorp, J.P. Morgan and Bankers Trust advocating the loosening of Glass-Steagall restrictions to allow banks to handle several underwriting businesses, including commercial paper, municipal revenue bonds, and mortgage-backed securities. Thomas Theobald, then vice chairman of Citicorp, argues that three "outside checks" on corporate misbehavior had emerged since 1933: "a very effective" SEC; knowledgeable investors, and "very sophisticated" rating agencies. Volcker is unconvinced, and expresses his fear that lenders will recklessly lower loan standards in pursuit of lucrative securities offerings and market bad loans to the public. For many critics, it boiled down to the issue of two different cultures - a culture of risk which was the securities business, and a culture of protection of deposits which was the culture of banking.

In March 1987, the Fed approves an application by Chase Manhattan to engage in underwriting commercial paper, applying the same reasoning as in the 1986 Bankers Trust decision, and in April it issues an order outlining its rationale. While the Board remains sensitive to concerns about mixing commercial banking and underwriting, it states its belief that the original Congressional intent of "principally engaged" allowed for some securities activities. The Fed also indicates that it will raise the limit from 5 percent to 10 percent of gross revenues at some point in the future. The Board believes the new reading of Section 20 will increase competition and lead to greater convenience and increased efficiency. 

In August 1987, Alan Greenspan -- formerly a director of J.P. Morgan and a proponent of banking deregulation -- becomes chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. One reason Greenspan favors greater deregulation is to help U.S. banks compete with big foreign institutions. 


1989-1990 Further loosening of Glass-Steagall
In January 1989, the Fed Board approves an application by J.P. Morgan, Chase Manhattan, Bankers Trust, and Citicorp to expand the Glass-Steagall loophole to include dealing in debt and equity securities in addition to municipal securities and commercial paper. This marks a large expansion of the activities considered permissible under Section 20, because the revenue limit for underwriting business is still at 5 percent. Later in 1989, the Board issues an order raising the limit to 10 percent of revenues, referring to the April 1987 order for its rationale.

In 1990, J.P. Morgan becomes the first bank to receive permission from the Federal Reserve to underwrite securities, so long as its underwriting business does not exceed the 10 percent limit. 


1980s-90s Congress repeatedly tries and fails to repeal Glass-Steagall
In 1984 and 1988, the Senate passes bills that would lift major restrictions under Glass-Steagall, but in each case the House blocks passage. In 1991, the Bush administration puts forward a repeal proposal, winning support of both the House and Senate Banking Committees, but the House again defeats the bill in a full vote. And in 1995, the House and Senate Banking Committees approve separate versions of legislation to get rid of Glass-Steagall, but conference negotiations on a compromise fall apart. 

Attempts to repeal Glass-Steagall typically pit insurance companies, securities firms, and large and small banks against one another, as factions of these industries engage in turf wars in Congress over their competing interests and over whether the Federal Reserve or the Treasury Department and the Comptroller of the Currency should be the primary banking regulator. 


1996-1997 Fed renders Glass-Steagall effectively obsolete
In December 1996, with the support of Chairman Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve Board issues a precedent-shattering decision permitting bank holding companies to own investment bank affiliates with up to 25 percent of their business in securities underwriting (up from 10 percent).

This expansion of the loophole created by the Fed's 1987 reinterpretation of Section 20 of Glass-Steagall effectively renders Glass-Steagall obsolete. Virtually any bank holding company wanting to engage in securities business would be able to stay under the 25 percent limit on revenue. However, the law remains on the books, and along with the Bank Holding Company Act, does impose other restrictions on banks, such as prohibiting them from owning insurance-underwriting companies. 

In August 1997, the Fed eliminates many restrictions imposed on "Section 20 subsidiaries" by the 1987 and 1989 orders. The Board states that the risks of underwriting had proven to be "manageable," and says banks would have the right to acquire securities firms outright. 

In 1997, Bankers Trust (now owned by Deutsche Bank) buys the investment bank Alex. Brown & Co., becoming the first U.S. bank to acquire a securities firm. 


1997 Sandy Weill tries to merge Travelers and J.P. Morgan; acquires Salomon Brothers
In the summer of 1997, Sandy Weill, then head of Travelers insurance company, seeks and nearly succeeds in a merger with J.P. Morgan (before J.P. Morgan merged with Chemical Bank), but the deal collapses at the last minute. In the fall of that year, Travelers acquires the Salomon Brothers investment bank for $9 billion. (Salomon then merges with the Travelers-owned Smith Barney brokerage firm to become Salomon Smith Barney.)

April 1998 Weill and John Reed announce Travelers-Citicorp merger
At a dinner in Washington in February 1998, Sandy Weill of Travelers invites Citicorp's John Reed to his hotel room at the Park Hyatt and proposes a merger. In March, Weill and Reed meet again, and at the end of two days of talks, Reed tells Weill, "Let's do it, partner!"

On April 6, 1998, Weill and Reed announce a $70 billion stock swap merging Travelers (which owned the investment house Salomon Smith Barney) and Citicorp (the parent of Citibank), to create Citigroup Inc., the world's largest financial services company, in what was the biggest corporate merger in history.

The transaction would have to work around regulations in the Glass-Steagall and Bank Holding Company acts governing the industry, which were implemented precisely to prevent this type of company: a combination of insurance underwriting, securities underwriting, and commecial banking. The merger effectively gives regulators and lawmakers three options: end these restrictions, scuttle the deal, or force the merged company to cut back on its consumer offerings by divesting any business that fails to comply with the law. 

Weill meets with Alan Greenspan and other Federal Reserve officials before the announcement to sound them out on the merger, and later tells the Washington Post that Greenspan had indicated a "positive response." In their proposal, Weill and Reed are careful to structure the merger so that it conforms to the precedents set by the Fed in its interpretations of Glass-Steagall and the Bank Holding Company Act. 

Unless Congress changed the laws and relaxed the restrictions, Citigroup would have two years to divest itself of the Travelers insurance business (with the possibility of three one-year extensions granted by the Fed) and any other part of the business that did not conform with the regulations. Citigroup is prepared to make that promise on the assumption that Congress would finally change the law -- something it had been trying to do for 20 years -- before the company would have to divest itself of anything.

Citicorp and Travelers quietly lobby banking regulators and government officials for their support. In late March and early April, Weill makes three heads-up calls to Washington: to Fed Chairman Greenspan, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, and President Clinton. On April 5, the day before the announcement, Weill and Reed make a ceremonial call on Clinton to brief him on the upcoming announcement. 

The Fed gives its approval to the Citicorp-Travelers merger on Sept. 23. The Fed's press release indicates that "the Board's approval is subject to the conditions that Travelers and the combined organization, Citigroup, Inc., take all actions necessary to conform the activities and investments of Travelers and all its subsidiaries to the requirements of the Bank Holding Company Act in a manner acceptable to the Board, including divestiture as necessary, within two years of consummation of the proposal. ... The Board's approval also is subject to the condition that Travelers and Citigroup conform the activities of its companies to the requirements of the Glass-Steagall Act." 


1998-1999 Intense new lobbying effort to repeal Glass-Steagall
Following the merger announcement on April 6, 1998, Weill immediately plunges into a public-relations and lobbying campaign for the repeal of Glass-Steagall and passage of new financial services legislation (what becomes the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999). One week before the Citibank-Travelers deal was announced, Congress had shelved its latest effort to repeal Glass-Steagall. Weill cranks up a new effort to revive bill.

Weill and Reed have to act quickly for both business and political reasons. Fears that the necessary regulatory changes would not happen in time had caused the share prices of both companies to fall. The House Republican leadership indicates that it wants to enact the measure in the current session of Congress. While the Clinton administration generally supported Glass-Steagall "modernization," but there are concerns that mid-term elections in the fall could bring in Democrats less sympathetic to changing the laws. 

In May 1998, the House passes legislation by a vote of 214 to 213 that allows for the merging of banks, securities firms, and insurance companies into huge financial conglomerates. And in September, the Senate Banking Committee votes 16-2 to approve a compromise bank overhaul bill. Despite this new momentum, Congress is yet again unable to pass final legislation before the end of its session.

As the push for new legislation heats up, lobbyists quip that raising the issue of financial modernization really signals the start of a fresh round of political fund-raising. Indeed, in the 1997-98 election cycle, the finance, insurance, and real estate industries (known as the FIRE sector), spends more than $200 million on lobbying and makes more than $150 million in political donations. Campaign contributions are targeted to members of Congressional banking committees and other committees with direct jurisdiction over financial services legislation. 


Oct.-Nov. 1999 Congress passes Financial Services Modernization Act
After 12 attempts in 25 years, Congress finally repeals Glass-Steagall, rewarding financial companies for more than 20 years and $300 million worth of lobbying efforts. Supporters hail the change as the long-overdue demise of a Depression-era relic. 

On Oct. 21, with the House-Senate conference committee deadlocked after marathon negotiations, the main sticking point is partisan bickering over the bill's effect on the Community Reinvestment Act, which sets rules for lending to poor communities. Sandy Weill calls President Clinton in the evening to try to break the deadlock after Senator Phil Gramm, chairman of the Banking Committee, warned Citigroup lobbyist Roger Levy that Weill has to get White House moving on the bill or he would shut down the House-Senate conference. Serious negotiations resume, and a deal is announced at 2:45 a.m. on Oct. 22. Whether Weill made any difference in precipitating a deal is unclear.

On Oct. 22, Weill and John Reed issue a statement congratulating Congress and President Clinton, including 19 administration officials and lawmakers by name. The House and Senate approve a final version of the bill on Nov. 4, and Clinton signs it into law later that month. 

Just days after the administration (including the Treasury Department) agrees to support the repeal, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, the former co-chairman of a major Wall Street investment bank, Goldman Sachs, raises eyebrows by accepting a top job at Citigroup as Weill's chief lieutenant. The previous year, Weill had called Secretary Rubin to give him advance notice of the upcoming merger announcement. When Weill told Rubin he had some important news, the secretary reportedly quipped, "You're buying the government?"

Sources: FRONTLINE's interviews for "The Wall Street Fix" and published reports by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Time, Fortune, Business Week, and other publications.


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Last from CounterPunch.org, http://www.counterpunch.org/kaufman09192008.html
 
September 19, 2008
The Bi-Partisan Origins of the Financial Crisis Shattering the Glass-Steagall Act
By WILLIAM KAUFMAN


If you're looking for a major cause of the current banking meltdown, you need seek no farther than the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act.

The Glass-Steagall Act, passed in 1933, mandated the separation of commercial and investment banking in order to protect depositors from the hazards of risky investment and speculation. It worked fine for fifty years until the banking industry began lobbying for its repeal during the 1980s, the go-go years of Reaganesque market fundamentalism, an outlook embraced wholeheartedly by mainstream Democrats under the rubric "neoliberalism."

The main cheerleader for the repeal was Phil Gramm, the fulsome reactionary who, until he recently shoved his foot even farther into his mouth than usual, was McCain's chief economic advisor.

But wait . . . as usual, the Democrats were eager to pile on to this reversal of New Deal regulatory progressivism -- fully 38 of 45 Senate Democrats voted for the repeal (which passed 90-8), including some famous names commonly associated with "progressive" politics by the easily gulled: Dodd, Kennedy, Kerry, Reid, and Schumer. And, of course, there was the inevitable shout of "yea" from the ever-servile corporate factotum Joseph Biden, Barack Obama's idea of a tribune of "change"--if by change one means erasing any lingering obstacle to corporate domination of the polity.

This disgraceful bow to the banking industry, eagerly signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1999, bears a major share of responsibility for the current banking crisis. Here's the complete roll call of shame:

    REPUBLICANS FOR (52): Abraham, Allard, Ashcroft, Bennett, Brownback, Bond, Bunning, Burns, Campbell, Chafee, Cochran, Collins, Coverdell, Craig, Crapo, DeWine, Domenici, Enzi, Frist, Gorton, Gramm (Tex.), Grams (Minn.), Grassley, Gregg, Hegel, Hatch, Helms, Hutchinson (Ark.), Hutchison (Tex.), Inhofe, Jeffords, Kyl, Lott, Lugar, Mack, McConnell, Murkowski, Nickles, Roberts, Roth, Santorum, Sessions, Smith (N.H.), Smith (Ore.), Snowe, Specter, Stevens, Thomas, Thompson, Thurmond, Voinovich and Warner. DEMOCRATS FOR (38): Akaka, Baucus, Bayh, Biden, Bingaman, Breaux, Byrd, Cleland, Conrad, Daschle, Dodd, Durbin, Edwards, Feinstein, Graham (Fla.), Hollings, Inouye, Johnson, Kennedy, Kerrey (Neb.), Kerry (Mass.), Kohl, Landrieu, Lautenberg, Leahy, Levin, Lieberman, Lincoln, Moynihan, Murray, Reed (R.L), Reid (Nev.), Robb, Rockefeller, Sarbanes, Schumer, Torricelli and Wyden.

    REPUBLICANS AGAINST(1): Shelby.

    DEMOCRATS AGAINST(7): Boxer, Bryan, Dorgan, Feingold, Harkin, Mikulski and Wellstone.

    NOT VOTING: 2 REPUBLICANS (2): Fitzgerald (voted present) and McCain.

The House Democrats were no less enthusiastic in their endorsement of this invitation to plunder--the repeal passed there by a margin of 343-86, with the Donkey Party favoring the measure by a two-to-one margin, 138-69. Current House speaker Nancy Pelosi managed not to register a vote on this one, so great was her fear of offending her party's corporate paymasters even though she knew passage was a sure thing.

According to Wikipedia, many economists "have criticized the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act as contributing to the 2007 subprime mortgage financial crisis. The repeal enabled commercial lenders such as Citigroup, the largest U.S. bank by assets, to underwrite and trade instruments such as mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations and establish so-called structured investment vehicles, or SIVs, that bought those securities. Citigroup played a major part in the repeal. Then called Citicorp, the company merged with Travelers Insurance company the year before using loopholes in Glass-Steagall that allowed for temporary exemptions. With lobbying led by Roger Levy, the 'finance, insurance and real estate industries together are regularly the largest campaign contributors and biggest spenders on lobbying of all business sectors [in 1999]. They laid out more than $200 million for lobbying in 1998, ' according to the Center for Responsive Politics. ' These industries succeeded in their two decades long effort to repeal the act. ' "

This lust for banking largesse is as wanton among Democrats as Republicans--right up to the current presidential campaign. According to the Phoenix Business Journal,

    Obama and McCain . . . have accepted a substantial amount of campaign money from Wall Street bankers, investment and securities firms and their executives during this election cycle.

    Investment firms have donated $9.9 million to Obama and $6.9 million to McCain this campaign thus far, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Commercial banks have given Obama $2.1 million and McCain $1.9 million. Private equity firms and hedge funds have given Obama $2 million and McCain $1.4 million, according to CFRP.

    Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase & Co., UBS and heavyweight law firm DLA Piper are among Obama's top contributors. JP Morgan acquired Bear Stearns with the federal government taking on as much as $30 billion Bear assets as part of the deal. McCain's top donor sources include Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Blank Rome and Greenberg Traurig LLP law firms.

So . . . the next time a mass-media-lulled Democrat ridicules Ralph Nader for arguing that there are few significant differences between the two major parties on the truly important issues, you might refer them to this atrocity, along with all the other ones.

William Kaufman can be reached at kman484@earthlink.net