Economy

Paul Volcker, legendary central banker turned radical reformer of our financial system, has won an important round. The WSJ is now reporting: President Barack Obama on Thursday is expected to propose new limits on the size and risk taken by the country’s biggest banks, marking the administration’s latest assault on Wall Street in what could mark a return--at least in spirit--to some of the curbs on finance put in place during the Great Depression. This is an important change of course that, while still far from complete, represents a major victory for Volcker--who has been pushing firmly for e

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At this stage in the electoral cycle, Democrats should be running hard against big banks and their consequences. Some roots of our current economic difficulties lie in the Clinton 1990s, but the real origins can be traced to the financial deregulation at the heart of the Reagan Revolution--and all the underlying problems became much worse in eight years of George W.

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One obvious question when Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd announced his retirement last week was what impact it would have on the effort to reform Wall Street. Dodd is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and the bill he wrote last year is the most ambitious regulatory initiative pending in Congress.

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On the first day of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, Phil Angelides demonstrated a gift for powerful and memorable metaphor: accusing Goldman Sachs of essentially selling defective cars and then taking out insurance on the buyers. Lloyd Blankfein and the other CEOs looked mildly uncomfortable, and this image reinforces the case for a tax on big banks--details to be provided by the president later today. But the question is: How to keep up the pressure and move the debate forward? If we stop with a few verbal slaps on the wrist and a relatively minor new levy, then we have achieved basi

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Bank Tax Arrives

The Obama administration tipped its hand today--they are planning a new tax of some form on the banking sector. But the details are deliberately left vague--perhaps “not completely decided” would be a better description. The NYT’s Room for Debate is running some reactions and suggestions. The administration is finally getting a small part of its act together--unfortunately too late to make a difference for the current round of bonuses.  We know there is a G20 process underway looking at ways to measure “excess bank profits” and, with American leadership, this could lead towards a more reasonab

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The big banks are pre-testing their main messages for bonus season, which starts in earnest next week. Their payouts relative to profits will be “record lows,” their people won’t make as much as in 2007 (except for Goldman), and they will pay a higher proportion of the bonus in stock than usual.  Behind the scenes, leading executives are still arguing out the details of the optics. As they justify their pay packages, the bankers open up a broader relevant question: How much bonus do they deserve in this situation? After all, bonus time is when you decide who made what kind of relative contrib

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Sources say that Goldman Sachs’s bonuses will be announced on Monday, January 18, and actually paid sometime between February 4 and February 7. In previous years, the bonuses were paid in early January--but the financial year shifted when Goldman became a bank holding company. For critics of the company and its fellow travelers, the timing could not be better. Anxiety levels about the financial sector are on the increase, even on Capitol Hill. The tension between high profits in banking and stress in the rest of the economy becomes increasingly a topic of discussion across the nation. And you

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My friend and former colleague Reihan Salam has a mostly thoughtful post about my recent piece on conservative crticism of Obama and the economy. He makes several good points, which speak for themselves, but I thought this one merited a response: Noam Scheiber of The New Republic writes: Becker, Davis, and Murphy are political conservatives, and they badly want you to believe government intervention is counterproductive.  My understanding is that while Becker, Davis, and Murphy have a libertarian bent, they are not partisan Republicans.

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Beware the Meme!

My favorite moment from last month’s White House jobs summit came when the president asked if Washington had been doing something to discourage hiring. At this point, a man named Fred Lampropoulos, the CEO of a Utah-based medical device manufacturer, chimed in that yes, in fact, it had. “[T]here’s such an aggressive legislative agenda that businesspeople don’t really know what they ought to do,” Mr. Lampropoulos told the president, according to The New York Times. Political uncertainty, he said, “is really what’s holding back the jobs.” Well, okay.

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Invest in Tuna

Investors are looking for vehicles to put their money. OK, I've got at least one. Yes, invest in tuna. Are there tuna futures like there are pork belly futures? I don't know. Here's the New York Times headline over an Associated Press story: "Giant Tuna Fetches $177,000 at Japanese Auction." This means that the price of sushi is going up, up, up. The fish weighed 513 pounds (233 kilograms).

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