Peter Wallison of the American Enterprise Institute has been one of the few sane voices in the fight over bailouts, regulation, and the financial sector. His new column in the Wall Street Journal exposes the White House’s misleading arguments for more government control of an already over-regulated financial sector:
…the government’s case for bailing out AIG has rested on the notion that the company was too big to fail. If AIG hadn’t been rescued, the argument goes, its credit default swap (CDS) obligations would have caused huge losses to its counterparties—and thus provoked a financial collapse. …The truth about the credit default swaps came out last week in a report by TARP Special Inspector General Neil Barofsky. It says that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, then president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, did not believe that the financial condition of AIG’s credit default swap counterparties was “a relevant factor” in the decision to bail out the company. …The broader question is whether the entire regulatory regime proposed by the administration, and now being pushed through Congress by Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Chris Dodd, is based on a faulty premise. …The administration’s unwillingness or inability to clearly define the problem of interconnectedness is not the only weakness in its rationale for imposing a whole new regulatory regime on the financial system. Another example is the claim—made by Mr. Geithner and President Obama himself—that predatory lending by mortgage brokers was one of the causes of the financial crisis. …At the end of 2008, there were about 26 million subprime and other nonprime mortgages in our financial system. Two-thirds of these mortgages were on the balance sheets of the Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the four largest U.S. banks. The banks were required to make these loans in order to gain approval from the Fed and other regulators for mergers and expansions.