Like every other promise of substance, Obama's pledge to "rein in" the banks has fallen by the wayside; the well-timed rhetoric smoothed over public tensions and now business is back to usual. The New York Times remarks:
Not only are the same people who helped destroy the economy still in their immensely powerful positions, but their power has increased. The Economist explains:
"Far from ceding ground, the big banks have grown even bigger, aided by government-brokered mergers. Rules have been bent or broken " nearly half of American mortgages made in the first half of the year came from Wells Fargo, which took over , or BofA, which swallowed Countrywide."
And: "America's leading banks were too big to fail before the crisis. Now they are bigger still." (September 10, 2009).
The economist, Nassim Taleb, warned "that the system has grown riskier since last fall. The extensive government support that began after Lehman collapsed will lead investors to assume that governments will always prevent major banks from collapsing." (New York Times, September 11, 2009).
The same article concluded that "The banks will keep the profits when their bets pay off, while taxpayers will swallow the losses when the bets go bad and threaten the system."
Obama is treating in the same manner he confronted health care: radical language was used to please public opinion with little action attached. The financial system is similar to health care in another way as well, prompting Obama into minimal action: Just like skyrocketing health care costs cut into the profits of many corporations, the shoddy financial system is a threat to corporations in general. This is the reason that some kind of reform is being pursued by the White House.
The problem is that Obama crammed Wall Street executives into every crevice of his administration, while Congress, too, is inundated with lobbying (legal bribes) from the big banks. Any change, therefore, is difficult. The New York Times notes:
"The Obama administration has proposed regulatory changes, but even their backers say they face a difficult road in Congress. For now, banks still sell and trade unregulated derivatives, despite their role in last fall's chaos. Radical changes like pay caps or restrictions on bank size face overwhelming resistance. Even minor changes, like requiring banks to disclose more about the derivatives they own, are far from certain." (September 11, 2009; emphasis added).
Internationally, is a hot-button issue. The junk stocks sold abroad by U.S. corporations amounted to tens of trillions of dollars, and infected the economies everywhere while making select corporations inside certain nations -- the U.S. and England -- immensely profitable.
Although the world's closely linked economies would benefit from cooperation over financial regulation, it is the conflicting interests of powerful corporations inside these countries that will make true reform impossible. Or, as the managing director of the Institute of International Finance put it, "We're in a tug of war between national political pressures and the desire to coordinate" (Bloomberg, September 2, 2009).
The G-20, therefore, will likely publish a vague statement about cooperation around financial regulation, while behind the scenes conflicts will erupt between France and Germany vs. the U.S. and England.