Geithner’s Desperate Power Grab
March 25, 2009 · Posted in Interventionism
People have to understand that government-made crises always precipitate a grab for more power by the very institution who causes them. Thus, in a predictable and mindless effort … U.S. Seeks Expanded Power to Seize Firms:
The Obama administration is considering asking Congress to give the Treasury secretary unprecedented powers to initiate the seizure of non-bank financial companies, such as large insurers, investment firms and hedge funds, whose collapse would damage the broader economy, according to an administration document.
The government at present has the authority to seize only banks.
Giving the Treasury secretary authority over a broader range of companies would mark a significant shift from the existing model of financial regulation, which relies on independent agencies that are shielded from the political process. The Treasury secretary, a member of the president’s Cabinet, would exercise the new powers in consultation with the White House, the Federal Reserve and other regulators, according to the document.
The administration plans to send legislation to Capitol Hill this week. Sources cautioned that the details, including the Treasury’s role, are still in flux.
Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner is set to argue for the new powers at a hearing today on Capitol Hill about the furor over bonuses paid to executives at American International Group, which the government has propped up with about $180 billion in federal aid. Administration officials have said that the proposed authority would have allowed them to seize AIG last fall and wind down its operations at less cost to taxpayers.
The administration’s proposal contains two pieces. First, it would empower a government agency to take on the new role of systemic risk regulator with broad oversight of any and all financial firms whose failure could disrupt the broader economy. The Federal Reserve is widely considered to be the leading candidate for this assignment. But some critics warn that this could conflict with the Fed’s other responsibilities, particularly its control over monetary policy.
The government also would assume the authority to seize such firms if they totter toward failure.
Besides seizing a company outright, the document states, the Treasury Secretary could use a range of tools to prevent its collapse, such as guaranteeing losses, buying assets or taking a partial ownership stake. Such authority also would allow the government to break contracts, such as the agreements to pay $165 million in bonuses to employees of AIG’s most troubled unit.
The Treasury secretary could act only after consulting with the president and getting a recommendation from two-thirds of the Federal Reserve Board, according to the plan.
Geithner plans to lay out the administration’s broader strategy for overhauling financial regulation at another hearing on Thursday.
The authority to seize non-bank financial firms has emerged as a priority for the administration after the failure of investment house Lehman Brothers, which was not a traditional bank, and the troubled rescue of AIG.
“We’re very late in doing this, but we’ve got to move quickly to try and do this because, again, it’s a necessary thing for any government to have a broader range of tools for dealing with these kinds of things, so you can protect the economy from the kind of risks posed by institutions that get to the point where they’re systemic,” Geithner said last night at a forum held by the Wall Street Journal.
The powers would parallel the government’s existing authority over banks, which are exercised by banking regulatory agencies in conjunction with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Geithner has cited that structure as the model for the government’s plans.
Tim Geithner’s lack of understanding is truly astonishing. I haven’t heard him say a single thing that made sense. He is as lost as Ben Bernanke when it comes to understanding the workings behing credit expansion, and its inevitable result, the credit crunch.
His actions are nothing new. Ayn Rand wrote in Atlas Shrugged in 1957:
“Politicians invariably respond to crises — that in most cases they themselves created — by spawning new government programs, laws and regulations. These, in turn, generate more havoc and poverty, which inspires the politicians to create more programs . . . and the downward spiral repeats itself until the productive sectors of the economy collapse under the collective weight of taxes and other burdens imposed in the name of fairness, equality and do-goodism.”
Ludwig von Mises wrote in his analysis Interventionism in 1940:
The various measures, by which interventionism tries to direct business, cannot achieve the aims its honest advocates are seeking by their application. Interventionist measures lead to conditions which, from the standpoint of those who recommend them, are actually less desirable than those they are designed to alleviate. They create unemployment, depression, monopoly, distress. They may make a few people richer, but they make all others poorer and less satisfied. If governments do not give them up and return to the unhampered market economy, if they stubbornly persist in the attempt to compensate by further interventions for the shortcomings of earlier interventions, they will find eventually that they have adopted socialism.
The Obama administration is doing everything it can to continue the interventionist path that the U.S. has been on since the beginning of the 20th century. There is absolutely no change coming in this matter. The outcome of these policies is pre-ordained. Ayn Rand and von Mises are just a few among many who predicted long ago what would happen.
Our leaders would be well advised to pick up some of their books, book a trip to the Bahamas, and just read for a couple of months. That would be the best possible stimulus plan I could think of.