Oct 292009
 

After all the poor bankers have been through, they can’t even go to Chicago for their annual conference and enjoy their Roaring 20s cocktail party without having to contend with a bunch of protestors.

What do these protestors want, for Pete’s sake?
It wasn’t like the bankers were partying and playing golf the whole time. A hundred of the more than 1,500 in attendance took time off to help fix up a house they had foreclosed on.
Then there were the meetings. And the complaining. Lots of complaining: The public unfairly blames the bankers for the financial crisis, their chief cheerleader, Edward Yingling, the association’s president, grumbled. The bankers have every reason to be angry, as beset and misunderstood as they have been. After all, the financial collapse is not their fault. He’s been making the case that it wasn’t the banks that were making subprime loans; it was the nasty mortgage originators and brokers.

But along with everything else they have to put up with, ever since the crisis the bankers have to face some financial reporters who actually check out the bankers’ claims. Columnist Joe Nocera of the New York Times looked into Yingling’s assertion and came back with a verdict: Guilty as charged.
Nocera cited fliers from a mortgage broker — from 2005, before the economy blew up—encouraging brokers to go JP Morgan Chase (a bank) “for all your subprime needs” including “no-doc” loans. “Chase makes it clear,” Nocera writes, “that the bank doesn’t need income or job verification – it just needs to look at a handful of old bank statements.”
Brokers got the subprime mortgages from banks, not just from JP Morgan but from others as well, like Wells Fargo and Bank of America. What did the bankers care? They just bundled the loans and sold them off to speculators. The bankers had no skin in the game.
About the only place the beleaguered bankers seem to be able to catch a break is the U.S. Congress, where they’ve managed to do a good job of diluting any efforts to change the rules of the game to make the bankers more accountable.

Those breaks don’t come cheap. They’ve spent more than $13 million since the beginning of 2008 to weaken vital consumer financial protections and derivatives regulation.
Now the bankers have to contend with President Obama’s plan to try to coax banks to make loans to small businesses.
Last week, the president unveiled a new initiative to encourage community banks to provide loans to small business, in large part because the $13 trillion (give or take) in bailouts, loans and guarantees that the government has provided to the larger banks hasn’t been enough to actually get them to make many loans.
Of course, when the government was handing out the money, it didn’t tell the banks they had to make loans, or do anything else for that matter. The government just gave them the money. So the bankers didn’t make loans. Why would they, when they could use the loot and government backing for more casino-style gambling, more fat bonuses, and to pump up their profits?

So now the government wants to dole out more money, but because of pesky public opinion, the Administration has to gamely suggest that bankers actually do something for somebody other than themselves with the taxpayers’ money.
It turns out the bankers would prefer to continue to collect their welfare checks without any conditions, the same way the government delivered its initial $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief program.
“I think if it doesn’t come with a lot of strings, it might be OK,” one Kansas community banker told Reuters.
At the meeting, some of the bankers suggested it wasn’t their fault credit was still frozen: the economy is just in such lousy shape no sane business person wants to borrow money.
Here’s a thought: if the economy stinks, and pouring money into banks isn’t fixing it, then maybe it’s time to stop pouring money into banks.
Maybe we can find some better way to spend trillions of dollars that might actually help people find jobs, keep businesses going, get educations and keep their homes.
And we can leave the poor bankers in peace.

About Martin Berg

Martin Berg, WheresOurMoney.org editor, is a veteran journalist.

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