The U.S. administration wants to relax its accounting standards, the so-called mark-to-market rules, so that its banks and companies can duck losses. Other countries are appalled this would be allowed but I'm all for it as long as they let all of us change our birth certificates so we can be younger.
What's most amusing about this shift in "standards" is that it amounts to the same sort of shenanigans that got the United States into the soup in the first place. So it's more of the same: fun with figures for profit.
Of course, the mark-to-market debate is not exactly black and white. Those in favor of allowing banks to duck writedowns cite that the pricing mechanism (i.e. stock markets) are no longer able to reflect real values.
Those opposed argue that changing the rules will allow banks to inflate the value of lousy or worthless assets. The U.S. changes will also make it easier for companies to price assets using their own internal models rather than market prices, and allow them to recognize only part of any losses in their income statements.
Isn't that what Bernard Madoff did?