Financial reform actually passed. Another victory for Obama, despite the furious objection of the other party and their Wall Street masters. Much too late, of course, and not strong enough, but at least they’re turning the Titanic slowly away from the deregulatory daze that got us into this mess in the first place. That’s little solace to those of us who have watched our investments dwindle. We could use a little old-fashioned irrational exuberance. Where’s the next bubble going to come from if Wall Street is held accountable? I’m going to have to go back to making money the old-fashioned way, by working for it. And I don’t like it one bit. Let’s have one more round of insanely inflated stock prices. This time I’ll get out when I have enough to retire, and I won’t care when the inevitable bust comes. Then you can regulate all you want. Sound like a plan?
One of the basic sci-fi dystopian plots came true yesterday, as computer -generated trading apparently took control of the stock market and nearly crashed it. More and more trading is done according to complex programs developed for highly sophisticated computers, which can analyze data and make trades faster than we poor, limited humans can. The problem seems to be that the programs, under the kind of market stresses exhibited yesterday, can build a feedback loop that wildly exaggerates market swings.
Hopeless science fiction fan that I am, the whole thing reminded me of HAL, the insane computer in the iconic film, “2001.” Thus, this cartoon.
The closer we get to economic recovery, the more difficult it’s going to be to reform Wall Street. Congress has already dithered for almost a year, and still no substantial reforms of the practices that led to the economic meltdown have emerged. For all Obama’s lecturing of the miscreants, he’s done little to force them to change their ways. The few banks that are now showing a profit are doing so largely because they’re trading in the same kinds of risky securities that led us to this mess in the first place. Worse, they’ve learned the wrong lesson: if they screw up again, we’ll bail them out rather than risk the destruction of the economy, and they’ll be rewarded yet again with huge bonuses paid for by the taxpayers, assuming we have anything left by then.
A year later, and the folks who gave us the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression are back at it. You’d think that the debacle would have given them at least a small does of humility, but no. Having been bailed out with hundreds of billion of the public’s money, they’re rewarding themselves for their financial brilliance with huge salaries and bonuses,and are already busy creating the next generation of bogus investments. Nothing like the next stock market bubble to raise the spirits. Meanwhile, Washington is still dithering over reform, with nothing of real consequence expected anytime soon.
I love the term, “shovel ready,” used to describe those projects states have ready to go as soon as the stimulus money is released. Given the grim state of the economy and the widespread despair over the the condition of the stock market (and thus our retirement investments), I keep thinking of another meaning for the phrase.