Intermezzo: A Memo Found in the Street: Uncle Sam the Enabler
To: Washington, D.C.
From: Wall Street
Re: Credit Crisis
Wow, we've made quite a mess of things here on Wall Street: Fannie and Freddie in conservatorship, investment banks in the tank, AIG nationalized. Thanks for sending us your new trillion-dollar bailout.
We on Wall Street feel somewhat compelled to take at least some responsibility. We used excessive leverage, failed to maintain adequate capital, engaged in reckless speculation, and created new complex derivatives. We focused on short-term profits at the expense of sustainability. We not only undermined our own firms, we destabilized the financial sector and roiled the global economy, to boot. And we got huge bonuses.
But here's a news flash for you, D.C.: We could not have done it without you. We may be drunks, but you were our enablers. Your legislative, executive, and administrative decisions made possible all that we did. Our recklessness would not have reached its soaring heights but for your governmental incompetence.
This memo provides a brief history of your actions that helped create this crisis.
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's famous "irrational exuberance" speech in 1996 was somehow ignored by, um, Fed Chairman Greenspan. The Fed missed the opportunity to change margin requirements. Had the Fed acted, the bubble would not have inflated as much, and the subsequent crash would not have been as severe.
Long-Term Capital Management was ...