A banker for Bernie

Writing for The Guardian, Asher Edelman a Wall Street economist:

The recession of 2007-2016, and the persistent transfer of wealth from the 80% to the 1% is, mostly the result of banking irresponsibility precipitated by the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999. The law separated commercial banking (responsible for gathering and conservatively lending out funds) from investment banking (more speculative activities).

A new culture emerged that rewarded bankers for return on equity rather than sound lending practices. The wild west of risk-taking, staked on depositors’ money, became the best sport in town. Why not? If management won, they got rich. When they lost, the taxpayer took on the responsibility. If that sounds like a good wager, it was (and is).

The only problem is what happens when the music ends. Debt-to-capital ratios for investment banking functions rose from 12:1 to 30:1. Options on derivatives on other derivatives increased that leverage many fold. Self-regulation became the rule and, lo and behold, in 2008: crash. America and the world were nailed by a fastball from which the bottom 80% of the American population has yet to recover.

Remarkably, today the derivatives positions held by the large banks approach 10 times those of 2007-2008. In four banks alone, they exceed the GDP of the entire world. This is the interesting consequence when unchecked risk management rests in bankers’ hands.