Guest Post: Cut the Partisan Hooey … BOTH the Private Sector AND the Government are to Blame for the Financial Crisis

Washington’s Blog

Partisan GOP hacks say the financial crisis was caused by too much regulation, and government interference in the markets.

But Glass-Steagall was repealed, derivatives were left unregulated, and the regulators were watching porn instead of preventing fraud. Giant banks, hedge funds and other fat cat private players knowingly gamed the market and committed fraud in more ways than can be listed in a single post.

And remember, even the “father of economics” – Adam Smith – didn’t believe in completely unfettered free markets.

On the other hand, partisan Democratic party hacks say that bad corporations caused the crisis, and that if more power is given to Summers, Bernanke, Geithner and the other governmental honchos, they’ll fix everything.

But Summers, Bernanke, Geithner and the other meatheads largely caused the crisis through their actions. And as Simon Johnson points out, the government created the mega-giants, and they are not the product of free market competition.

As I pointed out in February 2009, government fraud is pervasive:

In case you believe that there are only “a couple of bad apples” in the United States, here is an off-the-top-of-my-head list of corruption by leading pillars of American society:

  • Senior military officials stole approximately $125 billion dollars out of Iraq reconstruction funds, dwarfing Madoff’s $50 billion Ponzi scheme (in turn, the looting which is now occurring under the bailout/stimulus programs will far surpass $150 billion)
  • The government-endorsed ratings agencies which were supposed to accurately rate the credit-worthiness of companies and nations committed massive fraud

There are hundreds of similar stories of corruption which have come out recently.

But surely government employees would have done something to stop such corruption if had known about it, right?

Well, actually:

  • Instead of insisting on accurate books, the government encouraged fraudulent bookkeeping. For example, as of 2006:

    “President George W. Bush has bestowed on his intelligence czar … broad authority, in the name of national security, to excuse publicly traded companies from their usual accounting and securities-disclosure obligations.”

  • The government knew about mortgage fraud a long time ago. For example, the FBI warned of an “epidemic” of mortgage fraud in 2004. However, the FBI, DOJ and other government agencies then stood down and did nothing. See this and this

These are just some of the many examples of the government aiding and abetting corruption.

A lot has come out since then about Geithner, Bernanke, and other officials. See this, this, this, this and this.

Indeed, government employees are mainly using their time in office to feather their own nests, rather than to do anything constructive.

So let’s cut the partisan hooey.

Both the fat cat players and the government are to blame for the financial crisis, and we need to rein in corruption and fraud in both.

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About George Washington

George Washington is the head writer at Washington’s Blog. A busy professional and former adjunct professor, George’s insatiable curiousity causes him to write on a wide variety of topics, including economics, finance, the environment and politics. For further details, ask Keith Alexander…


    1. Glen

      It’s a classic role reversal:

      Wall St makes it’s rules and regulations.

      And the politicians and regulators are for sale!

  1. forecasts

    Yes. Yes. Someone finally gets it!

    This hasn’t been a failure of “free markets”. This hasn’t been a failure of “government” or “democracy”.

    We’ve evolved into the worst of all systems – where we have big, politically connected businesses that create non-free markets via controlling the government.

    This is exactly what Adam Smith warned about 200 years ago. Quasi-governmental businesses – like the East India Company or Fannie and Freddie or Goldman. All of these effectively used the government to capture and monopolize their markets and extract profits from the rest of society.

    We are on our way to becoming the next Rome – where huge corporations buy up foreign tax farming and strip mine the provincial inhabitants. Now, the strip miners are Goldman and Citi and BofA and the poor provincials are the American middle class who must either sell themselves into debt slavery (student loans that can’t be paid back or home mortgages) or be consigned to flipping burgers at McDonalds.

    I say – find the people at Citi and BofA and Goldman – and crucify them – at least in public opinion.

    1. Evelyn Sinclair

      If you search this blog with the word “capture” you will see articles going back a long time on how the Wall Street Financiers captured the government.

      My first reaction was that this is simply obvious to anyone who has been paying attention.

      Then I thought about it and recalled how much disinformation has been put into the air. People swim in a sea of propaganda. I don’t watch television, so I avoid quite a bit of it. But I have to constantly listen ore read PAST the lies woven into interviews and news broadcasts discussing current events.

      Then there’s the distraction of rightwing nuttery making Obama look real good by comparison. It is very tempting to want to support relative (seeming) sanity. The rightwing wackos are so virulent I sometimes hesitate in saying anything bad about the current administration for fear of being lumped in with the Tea Party crowd!

      But lets back away from the “left Vs right” delusion — a hoax really, as it is more progressives deluded by fascism in hip black Vs a few very noisy knuckle-dragging gun-totin’ “patriots.” I believe this is deliberate, by the way. I think Obama is supposed to look good to sophisticated “progressive” types. He would be more subject to objective scrutiny if he weren’t under attack by the Palin/militia crowd.

      If you just look at the facts and forget the froth, we’re still looking at the same Obama who said “Pass the TARP” without a hint of hesitation, and rode in on a tide of wall Street’s money.

      My first fear about CANDIDATE Obama was his official stance supporting expanding the powers of the Federal Reserve. He’s been consistent, Ill give him that!

  2. Larry.

    Let’s just all admit it. The wars, the prisons, the fraud, the oligopoly, the fake elections.

    Fascism. We have become fascist. Fascist. Say it out loud.

    5% of the global population and 25% of the prison population. Two unending occupations and an unending, undefined war against a feeling. The banksters get bailouts and the rest of us get screwed. We pay taxes and receive government services similar in quality to a developing nation. The media is in on the game and does nothing more than distract us, when not dividing and conquering us (hey look guys, Bill Maher called whites racist again, oh and Bill O’rielly is yelling about liberals)

    It is an extremely efficient and effective model of oppression. It isn’t going away. It won’t be reformed. There will be no rebellion (the state would win). This is it. All we can hope for (because we have no power) is for it to not get worse.

    1. attempter

      Yes, if you’re a self-defined slave in your heart and mind you can do nothing, and your comment proves that for you.

      For example, if one defines oneself as a “consumer” and not a citizen, and can see no way of living other than the consumer death march, then one is indeed a terminal slave.

      But for those of us who still want to live as free citizens and human beings, the means for truly effective rebellion are at hand. We can reject the “consumer” economy, the “growth” economy, and relocalize our economies and polities. We can get our money out of the big banks. We can grow our own food and produce our own crafts. We can strengthen and act to defend relocalized informal economies. We can politically organize to repel top-down predators.

      Of course all that would require us to live within our means materially, which is why most Americans still reject the idea, or simply find it incomprehensible. They still cling to the delusions of being “middle class”, no matter how much that rug is being pulled out from under them.

      That’s why we keep seeing this attitude of total defeatism, which is really just abetting the kleptocracy.

      It’s not that nothing can be done, it’s that people still refuse to do what can be done, what has to be done.

      1. Kevin de Bruxelles

        Great comment.

        People get hung up on the corrupt political system and the uselessness of their vote, but the individual’s real power in a consumer society is not at the ballot box but wise deployment of in their wallets.

        1. NS

          EXACTLY. I’ve been voting that way a LONG time. To do this takes time, effort, discipline and thought. If I discover a product, like say some seafood from Thailand, is produced by a literally enslaved group of people in the harshest sense, I don’t buy it or eat it.

          Current international laws exist against slavery, peonage, and the abuses of millions after the last great depression. Wage deflation occurs when competitive forces are stripped in ignoring VERY basic human rights. The US also adopted those laws to include usury. Yet in the shadows and out, these abuses exist in force right here in the land of the so called free. Now it is time for us to be BRAVE and just say no.

          The sad truth is commerce is part of human existence. We all must eat, shelter, and heat our homes. That too has been hijacked via the CFMA and opening of the those markets to endless manipulation and forces. It is the very market upon which those wonderful fantastic SIVs were traded.

          The price of cheap is really expensive. Choose wisely if you can.

          The political parties are just as liable, contemptuous and complicit. Great wonderful and long overdue article. THANKS YVES!

  3. Chad

    Nice work, GW. Thank you!

    There’s more than enough blame to go around, but the beauty of this particular site its continued commitment to cast the light both far and wide. The roaches who created and exacerbated this mess came from every walk of life and every avenue of greed.

    It’s the easy way out to take one side vs. another, and pretend as though any one particular power wielding group can clame righteous indiganation.

    1. alex black

      Well, the mind MIGHT boggle, if I could make the damn wrinkle advertisements go away that cover the Salon article and actually read it.

  4. derek

    The super-rich come first. First the taxes are capped at the top, then the rich become super-rich, then they buy the government with their wealth.

    If this is ever reversed, one of the most important factors of the reversal is going to have to be a return to a truly progressive tax system, that taxes those with little capital little, and those with a lot of capital a lot (90% top tax rate on income from wealth).

    Governing has to be too much for the governed rich to buy, so if you want small government, you have to want small businesses and small millionaires too.

  5. Jeffrey

    Thanks for all your great work. It will take along time to take back this country from the fools on the hill, and the Goldman Hubris but we must contine to write and fight.GW and Yves fantastic site!

  6. Thomasina Jefferson

    The problem is systemic, it is not an aberration of the Capitalis system, this is the Capitalist system.

    Capitalism does prefer autocratic governmental structures.
    As long as you have Capitalism within a Democracy, you will have Capitalists trying to overcome the limitations set on it by democratic society, by doing away with democracy.
    Of course, an outright putsch would be to obvious a power grab and would immediatly eliminate any legitimacy the Capitalist system might still hold in the eyes of many.
    So a much more quiet and at the same time much more insidious strategy is followed: Move control over currency and fiancial and the economic matters from democratically elected national assemblies and governments to international organisations that have their members appointed by the Capitalist elite and are accountable not to the citizens of any state but are accountable only to their appointers.

    If that development is to be avoided, replacing Capitalism would be the best shot at a solution.

  7. hattip

    No, Thomisina, lets call it “soft socialism”. It certainly is not “capitalism”. It is the government that controls corporations, not the other way around.

    Let us also stop confusing speculation in financial markets with productive capital–they are hardly the same thing.

    In fact, the locus of are current problems are 1) the brute fact that the government forced the financial industry to make bad loans (which is hardly capitalism), and 2) the fecklessness with which that industry create and traded instruments in order to migrate the risk of #1.

    Also, all the major players in this business on this side of the pond are Democrats.

    This is the politicization of, and therefore the corruption of, capital markets, not the other way around.

    Let us be clear, Wall St. is a in the main a Democrat/liberal enclave.

    BTW, Guest poster, you do yourself and your argument few favors by quoting conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated allegations out of unnamed sources from The Guardian. It is a known hard Left propaganda rag. You might as well quote Pravda. The fact that you will not give your also undercuts your argument

    Also, you “bad apple” paragraph is irrational and irrelevant. It is a straw man not germane to this issue.
    Enumerating criminal acts in this content is merely an attempt to show guilt by association, and confounds criminality with capitalism. It is neither necessary or sufficient. Communist societies certainly far exceeded capitalist ones in criminality and outrages against humankind. Moreover, the vast improvement of material live brought by capitalism far outweighs and opportunities that this may provide for mischief.

    Also, please stop repeating the fiction that we have ever had a “free market”. Wall St is one of the most highly regulated industries in the country. If they were not regulates, if these banks had been allowed to fail, we would be through this already.

    Please stop confounding the sinfulness of Man with Capitalism. It is intellectually dishonest and immoral of you to do so.

    1. skippy

      An article published in May 2002 by MEED Middle East Economic Digest[11] referred to the Al-Yamamah project as: “The largest contract ever awarded to a British company, the Al-Yamamah project remains at the heart of the UK trade drive in Saudi Arabia, generating a substantial portion of Britain’s export earnings from the largest economy in the Arab world. Although past its peak, Al-Yamamah still generates at least ₤ 100 million of sales a year. Contract payments are made through an oil barter arrangement involving BP and the Royal Dutch/Shell Group.”

      A Daily Telegraph article[12] in August 2006 reported:”The oil-for-arms basis of the first deals only served to add to the mysterious workings of Al-Yamamah. BAE was “paid” in oil produced by Saudi outside its Opec quota and sold in the market by BP and Shell. The switch from oil to cash as the basis for the third deal has been influenced by a Saudi anti-corruption drive and a recognition that the slush funds associated with other Saudi arms contracts have helped finance terrorism.”

      The Times reported in February 2007[13]: “The first two al-Yamamah deals were complicated oil-for-arms arrangements that cost Saudi Arabia a certain number of barrels of oil a day. This oil was transferred to BP and Shell, which in turn paid the value of the oil into an escrow account from which BAE received its money.”

      In June 2007, The Guardian published an article[14] about Al-Yamamah saying: “The agreement – its name means “the dove” in Arabic – has kept BAE afloat for the last 20 years, bringing around £40bn of revenue.” “Al-Yamamah has been controversial for many reasons. Within weeks of the deal being signed in 1985, allegations of corruption surfaced. Those allegations have never gone away; in December 2006 the government terminated the Serious Fraud Office investigation into claims that BAE had paid massive bribes to Saudi royals.”

      On 22 June 2007, Executive Intelligence Review published an article by its Counterintelligence Director Jeffrey Steinberg [15] that said: “BAE Systems, a crown jewel in the City of London financial/industrial structure, secured somewhere in the range of $80 billion in net profit from the arrangement—in league with BP and Royal Dutch Shell!”

      In February and March 2010, the news media reported[16] that following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, BAE Systems admitted criminal charges partly arising from the Al-Yamamah contract. It was ordered to pay a fine of $400 million. According to BBC News, BAE Systems will pay a record £30 million criminal corporate fine in the UK.

      Skippy…I could do this all day, care to reexamine your statements…hell even our first president pinched the best land promised to his soldiers. From inception the US has been a corporatist state, upon which your status is indentured servant, abet a free-range one.

      1. skippy

        Gulf Oil Corp. became the biggest gusher of money for the Mellon family empire. By 1956 it was taking $160 million annually in profits out of Kuwait alone.

        Violence was a vital ingredient of this stolen wealth. President Barack Obama admitted in his June 4th Cairo speech that “the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government.”

        The CIA’s “Operation Ajax” overthrew Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953. It was masterminded by CIA executive Kermit Roosevelt, a grandson of President Teddy Roosevelt. Mossadegh’s “crime” was nationalizing his country’s oil.

        Iran was plunged into 26 years of dictatorship under the U.S.-imposed Shah. Thousands were tortured to death by the SAVAK secret police, which was modeled on the Nazi Gestapo. SAVAK agents were trained by Herman Norman Schwarzkopf, whose son, Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr., led the 1991 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

        This was wonderful for the Mellons, since Gulf Oil got a slice of Iranian oil. Kermit Roosevelt left the CIA and became a Gulf Oil vice president.

        As in 1953, the U.S. is once again trying to overthrow a “democratically elected Iranian government.” Congress has approved $400 million for a new CIA destabilization campaign.

        U.S. billionaires want to overthrow Iranian President Ahmadinejad, just like they got rid of Prime Minister Mossadegh.

        It started in Texas

        Croatian immigrant Anthony Lucas was convinced there was oil under an East Texas salt dome. Native people had known this for centuries.

        Vindication came on Jan. 10, 1901, when the Spindletop gusher began throwing 100,000 barrels of oil into the sky every day. Nearby Beaumont became a boomtown.

        The prospector—whose original name was Luchich—was forced to sell seven-eighths of his stake to Pittsburgh oilmen J.M. Guffey and John H. Galey. These oilmen needed more financing from the biggest Pittsburgh moneylenders—the Mellons.

        The J.M. Guffey Petroleum Co. was born with a $15 million capitalization. Lucas—who was a classmate of Serbian electrical genius Nikola Tesla—got $400,000. Galey got something. The workers who risked their lives to put out a huge oil fire at Spindletop got nothing.

        Guffey was kicked out by the Mellons in 1907 when Gulf Oil was incorporated. Andrew Mellon’s nephew, William Larimer Mellon, was installed as Gulf’s president.

        He had organized the Crescent pipeline, which stretched across Pennsylvania. The Mellons sold it to the Rockefellers’ National Transit pipeline in 1895 for $4 million.

        W.L. Mellon then organized a Pittsburgh streetcar monopoly in 1901 valued at $110 million. The Mellons were big into trolleys at that time, since it served their real estate interests.

        Big Oil later spent decades destroying trolley systems in the interests of promoting the use of gas-guzzling automobiles. The 700-mile-long Pacific Electric system that once served the Los Angeles area shut down its last line to Long Beach in 1961.

        Killing people around the world

        Gulf Oil’s pipelines extended into Sapulpa, Okla., where oil was stolen from Native people. The prosperous Greenwood neighborhood in nearby Tulsa—called “Black Wall Street”—was destroyed by white racist mobs in 1921, with hundreds of African Americans killed.

        The Gulf Oil refinery at Port Arthur, Texas, became the largest in the world in the 1920s. Black and Mexican workers did the dirtiest work there and got only 25 cents per hour.

        Twenty-five sailors burned to death when the company’s tanker “Gulf of Venezuela” blew up in Port Arthur in 1926.

        By this time Gulf had plenty of oil wells in Venezuela. The Mellons and Rockefellers backed Juan Vicente Gómez, who was the country’s dictator from 1908 until his death in 1935.

        Gómez crushed unions and threw student protesters into chain gangs. Presently, democratically elected Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Frías, with Cuban assistance, has brought health care to millions. Yet the corporate media that today attack President Chávez never even mentioned the dictator Gómez.

        Gulf Oil was exploiting Mexico before it began ripping off Venezuela. But the Mellons didn’t like one important anti-imperialist result of the Mexican Revolution. In 1938 all the U.S. and British oil companies were thrown out of that country.

        Colombia’s congress rejected concessions to Gulf and Standard Oil in 1928. Mellon lawyer Allen Dulles—who later was to be the CIA head during Mossadegh’s overthrow—was outraged. Colombia was forced to back down when its credit was shut off by Wall Street.

        Gen. René Barrientos Ortuño staged a phony 1966 election in Bolivia with $800,000 in Gulf Oil bribes. The next year he and the CIA assassinated the heroic revolutionary, Che Guevara.

        But Big Oil has now been kicked out of Bolivia.

        Next the Mellons went to the Middle East and Africa. U.S. Ambassador to Britain Andrew Mellon demanded and got half of Kuwait’s oil deposits from its colonial overlords in London.

        Gulf Oil was the paymaster for the Portuguese fascist regime’s war against the African people of Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique.

        But African liberation fighters won independence for these countries and their victories also aided the successful struggle against fascism by the Portuguese workers, who overthrew dictator Marcelo Caetano in 1974.

        What did working people in Pittsburgh get out of Gulf Oil’s crimes?

        When Gulf Oil was taken over by Chevron in 1984, thousands of jobs were lost at its skyscraper headquarters in Pittsburgh. Mellon foundation grants to Carnegie-Mellon University didn’t stop 500 Gulf Oil scientists from being fired.

        Skippy…yep all the governments fault…first you have to have a representative government…not a bought and payed for one…before your words will stick.

    2. RueTheDay

      “1) the brute fact that the government forced the financial industry to make bad loans (which is hardly capitalism), and 2) the fecklessness with which that industry create and traded instruments in order to migrate the risk of #1.”

      Holy revisionist history, Batman (though this sort of thinking is quite common amongst libertopian thinkers.

      The CRA did not FORCE banks to give loans to anyone. I guess some on the Right seems to think that if they repeat this lie often enough, people will start to believe it out of familiarity. Less than half of all subprime loans were originated by banks covered by the CRA. Wall Street did not create CDOs to deal with government forcing subprime loans to be made. You have the causality exactly backwards. It was investor demand for bonds deemed safe but yielding more than Treasuries that caused Wall Street to engage in this financial engineering, which in turn created demand for more and more risky mortgages to be issued.

      “Also, please stop repeating the fiction that we have ever had a “free market”. Wall St is one of the most highly regulated industries in the country. If they were not regulates, if these banks had been allowed to fail, we would be through this already.”

      This borders on religious dogma. Nevermind the fact that all previous history with financial crises demonstrates your position to be wrong, you are convinced a priori that the free market can never fail and the government is the unitary source of all that is evil.

      I take it that your remedy for the Gulf oil spill is for the government to do nothing and just “let BP fail”, while safely ignoring the damage to the ecosystem and local economy.

    3. RobBonzetti

      Don’t waste your breath. The guest poster also thinks Dick Cheney and Halliburton are to blame for the BP oil platform explosion and subsequent spill in the gulf. His source? The claims of an attorney representing gulf fishermen–ugh. He’s a kook. He sites dailykos as a source.

      I was referred to Naked Capitalism by a friend who’s an Yves Smith fanboy, but the kooky rantings of GW diminish the blog’s credibility to the point that I rarely visit it any longer. I assume YS agrees with him to some degree on these matters, and if so, I don’t really trust her reading of anything that’s happening. It’s also the reason I’ve not purchased her book. Birds of a feather. . .

  8. Tom Crowl

    Some things to consider:

    The ELITEST Left feels that the ‘great un-washed’ (us) are inherently stupid and bigoted and we should all shut-up and/or sing Kumbyah while they benevolently lead us into some utopian new age facilitated by the creative finance which sustains them. So gerrymandering and revolving doors are good since it keeps the ‘experts’ in control.

    The ELITEST Right also believe the ‘great un-washed (us) are inherently stupid and that none of them should interfere with the Ayn Randian/Corporatist simplistic ‘winner-take-all’, leave it to the un-regulated market path to individualistic bliss.(NOT Adam Smith’s view and NOT workable).

    Together they’ve built a huge edifice of hypocrisy.

    Why hasn’t it been fixed? Because the “Great Un-washed” don’t use their voices effectively. Which is just the way the ELITE Left AND Right would like to keep it.

    For any who wish to take the time to actually inform themselves… and look at the numbers…

    You’ll find that for about $20/year voters could take their government back and actually be a part.

    HOW? Networked citizen lobbying made practical via dedicated accounts making the micro-transaction financially feasible. The reason such a small transaction must be facilitated is to allow the ‘opinion granularity’ necessary for meaningful and rapid ‘scaled-feedback’ within the legislative process. The politically neutral resultant network is a ‘long-tail’ structure facilitating organization and impact for constituencies now blocked.

    The Power of Small Money, Large Numbers & Immediate Feedback

  9. mythbuster

    All that nice, simple stuff, and then…this….

    “HOW? Networked citizen lobbying made practical via dedicated accounts making the micro-transaction financially feasible.”

    This is a prime example of the kind of nonsense one finds in a typical bill in Congress. Verbiage that makes zero sense.

  10. RHS

    “Senior military officials stole approximately $125 billion dollars out of Iraq reconstruction funds, dwarfing Madoff’s $50 billion Ponzi scheme (in turn, the looting which is now occurring under the bailout/stimulus programs will far surpass $150 billion)”

    Bull shit. The only only evidence in your “source” that provides evidence that military officers stole $125 billion is two supeanas that were issed for two officer’s bank accounts. You conflate the money that may have not been spent well because of the disorder in 2003 and 2004 with outright fraud. I was there as an infantry officer on brigade staff that had purchasing authority and know that all the money I saw spent went to repair country that was left to massive disrepair for years by Saddam Hussien. Some of the Iraqi contractors hired inflated prices by offering pricing that would be very reasoanble for the US but would be outlandish in Iraq when PPP was taken into account. Considering the contractors made themsleves a target and we used three bids (that right we translated three bids for each major project which was a unholy mess), we went ahead and paid them what was then the market rate of coalition assistance. I was sure there were some officers that took advantage of the disorder but that would be orders of magnatude smaller than $125 billion.

    Total smear job conspiracy theorist jornalism at its worse. Shame on you. Those mean and woman who are literally working 24/7 in hellish conditions to clean up the mess caused of our poltical leaders deserve better this crap.

  11. Doc Holiday

    Re: “regulators were watching porn instead of preventing fraud”

    Strike that, should read:

    Regulators were making porn and intimately involved in fraud.

    Also see: Bush Era of PornoShip Society & fraud and conspiracy within every nepotistic government agency …. they al need to be investigated, but the DOJ is also corrupt, so who yah gonna call …. maybe channel in Magnum PI?

  12. Alex

    Yes, this really the problem. Folks, we cannot “game” everything. Integrity builds trust, which builds markets.

    We have to hold all to the highest standard of integrity, or we really going nowhere.

Comments are closed.