The downgrades in the credit ratings of major banks mean very little to the average consumer, but the downgrade in the credibility of Congress and the mess we have made of our financial regulatory structure should give us all pause.
The ability to snatch the spotlight when good things happen and vanish the moment they go south is the domain of the credit weasel. Shamelessness is fundamental to superior credit weaseling. It's also a sine qua non for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.
Only by leaving can Greece reissue the drachma and let it devalue sharply. Everything Greek will be available at fire sale prices, which will attract foreign investors and make Greek exports price competitive. Greece and its people will be left a lot poorer, but that's also now inevitable.
Greg Smith's recent wail of resignation made it clear that Goldman Sachs has long lost touch with these simple truths. The thing is, though, you don't have to be a client of Goldman's to lose out, you just have to be, well, a human.
And so it goes, the revolving door between government service and big money in the private sector spinning so fast it becomes an irresistible force hurling politics and high finance together so completely it's impossible to tell one from the other.
When it comes to fraud, if you don't look for it, you don't find it, because when it comes to fraud, there is always a cover-up.
They're considered the "Smartest Guys in the Room" (yeah, they're mostly guys). They're the financial "wizards" like Robert Rubin, Hank Paulson, Lloy...
At a time when trust in government is at an all time low, even the appearance of impropriety can undermine trust in vital public institutions like the Department of Treasury.
This week, as police shut down the Occupy encampment in Los Angeles, a trio of stories fortified the movement's fundamental argument about the two-tiered nature of our democracy. First up was a report on how, in July 2008, then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson gave a group of Wall Street cronies inside information on the rescue of Fannie and Freddie. Then came word that, in the midst of the financial meltdown, the Fed had secretly loaned banks $7.7 trillion with absolutely no strings attached -- loans the banks used to turn a $13 billion profit (while foreclosures escalated and small businesses struggled to get loans). Finally, heroic Judge Jed Rakoff's rejection of a sweetheart fraud settlement the SEC had gift-wrapped for Citigroup turned a spotlight on how the public interest is routinely sacrificed on the altar of expediency, and how the lack of accountability makes it much more likely that the wrongdoers will do wrong again and again without paying a real price.
What do we stand for and how much of this can we stand? What are we willing to tolerate or not tolerate from our public servants? Where did we go so wrong that congressional staffers imply that crony capitalism is business as usual?
She may not know it yet, but the nation needs Sheila Bair. Her persona, her values, her experience would be an enormously timely gift to all of us.
Take from your money from places like Bank of America and move them banks and credit unions in your community. To my knowledge, none of them have paid a $8.5 billion settlement.
Maybe, with the tough new demand to increase statutory capital far beyond what the banks were willing to do, there will be a banking system that is more protective of itself.
Too Big To Fail isn't the story of how the Three Musketeers (Paulson, Bernanke, and Geithner) saved the global economy. It's a story of how the three didn't see the financial crisis coming.
Perhaps the main value of the book and film versions of Andrew Ross Sorkin's Too Big to Fail is the instruction they provide on the limits of mainstream journalism in the decade that led up to the meltdown.