Greenspan: "Shocked Disbelief"

Saturday, 25 October 2008 11:03 By Robert Borosage, Truthout | name.

Greenspan: "Shocked Disbelief"

    It marks the end of an era. Alan Greenspan, the maestro, defender of the market fundamentalist faith, champion of deregulation, celebrator of exotic banking inventions, admitted Thursday in a hearing before Rep. Henry Waxman's House Committee and Oversight and Government Reform that he got it wrong.

    "Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders' equity, myself included, are in a state of shocked disbelief," he said.

    As to the fantasy that banks could regulate themselves, that markets self-correct, that modern risk management enforced prudence: "The whole intellectual edifice, however, collapsed in the summer of last year."

    Greenspan spurned the Republican acolytes trying desperately to defend the faith and blame the crisis on the Community Reinvestment Act and the powerful lobby of poor people who forced powerless banks to do reckless things. Greenspan dismissed that goofiness in response to a question from one of its right-wing purveyors, Rep. Todd Platts, R-Pa., noting that subprime loans grew to a crisis only as the unregulated shadow financial system securitized mortgages, marketed them across the world, and pressured brokers to lower standards to generate a larger supply to meet the demand. Private greed, not public good, caused this catastrophe:

"The evidence now suggests, but only in retrospect, that this market evolved in a manner which if there were no securitization, it would have been a much smaller problem and, indeed, very unlikely to have taken on the dimensions that it did. It wasn't until the securitization became a significant factor, which doesn't occur until 2005, that you got this huge increase in demand for subprime loans, because remember that without securitization, there would not have been a single subprime mortgage held outside of the United States, that it's the opening up of this market which created a huge demand from abroad for subprime mortgages as embodied in mortgage-backed securities.

    But having admitted the failure of his faith, Greenspan could not abandon it. Credit default swaps had to be "restrained," he admitted. Those who create mortgages should be mandated to retain a piece of them to insure responsible lending. Otherwise, the old faith still applied. No new regulations were needed, because the markets "for the indefinite future will be far more restrained than would any currently contemplated new regulatory regime."

    Now hung over from their bender, the banks could be depended upon to remain sober "for the indefinite future." Or until taxpayers' money relieves their headaches, and they are free to party once more.

Last modified on Saturday, 25 October 2008 12:02