Thursday, March 31, 2011
Bethany McLean of Slate relates a story about the government's role in the fiscal crisis that she likens to "the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing." It will not, however, surprise anyone who, as I do, views government regulation of the economy as both immoral and impractical.
On March 16 the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC, sued three former top executives of Washington Mutual, or WaMu, for taking "extreme and historically unprecedented risks," thereby causing the bank to lose "billions of dollars." That same day, the New York Times reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission had sent so-called Wells notices—often a sign that civil charges are imminent -- to a handful of former executives at mortgage-securitization giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.Absent the full context of the government's systemic role in causing the financial crisis, this story merely lends false credibility to the notion that our government was merely inefficient or inept. A good place to start really understanding the significance of this particular instance of bad government would be to ask: When the government encourages and facilitates lying, cheating, and stealing economy-wide, what will more efficiency on its part actually do for us?
... The FDIC is seeking to recover $900 million from the three bankers. Fannie and Freddie were taken over by the government in the fall of 2008. So far, they have cost taxpayers about $130 billion.
Perhaps you're thinking: If only the government had known at the time what these scoundrels were up to, we could all have been spared a great deal of pain. The trouble with that line of reasoning is that, um, the government did know what was going on. The Office of Thrift Supervision, which regulated WaMu, and the Office of Housing Enterprise Oversight, which regulated Fannie and Freddie, were supervising the very behavior that their sister agencies are now suing over. The government's lawsuits call to mind a cynical boast by Burt Lancaster, playing tabloid power broker J.J. Hunsecker, in the 1957 noir classic Sweet Smell of Success: "My right hand hasn't seen my left hand in 30 years." [format edits, emphasis added]
Huh! LB's daughter has synesthesia. I personally know three synesthetes. One of them has a form of time-space synesthesia.
According to Wal-Mart's CEO, sharp inflation is around the corner.
If my own blog-following habits are any indication, most people who follow this blog do so through feed readers. If this describes you, and you're curious about my take on an issue, you won't necessarily know that I accept questions through Formspring. Visit this blog any time or go here, where there is a submission slot and a list of links to all my past answers. You get extra points for prefacing your question with, "Dear Uncle Gus," and signing off with something clever.
I finally got around to upgrading to Ubuntu 10.04. (I think support for 9.x ends after April.) If you want your window minimize-maximize-close thingies to appear on the upper right (the old default) rather than the upper left (the new default), How-to Geek has you covered.
4-4-11: Added hypertext anchor.