With great fascination, I have been witnessing the Obama administration punish Wall Street- and to try to "divide and conquer" Main Street in the process. To many who are "outside" Wall Street- this may seem like a good thing. But, since an estimated 90-100 million Americans are invested in the stock market- whether through direct stock purchases, mutual funds, IRA's, 401k's, etc., then Obama's relentless pursuits are actually simultaneously punishing Main Street.
The reality is that there are several things that the Obama administration and his Democratic posse can do to immediately halt the market slide and, in fact, would bring the stock market up in a major way- yet, it has become readily apparent that these are things that neither Obama nor the Dems are really interested in doing. In fact, it has become apparent that they are more interested in rushing their partisan agendas through an overloaded Democratic Congress while citizens are in panic and Obama's popularity is still high, rather then simply making the fixes I have alluded to.
Therefore, it has exposed an incredible opportunity for Republicans- to seize the moment and take back Main Street, and to do it immediately- at this critical point in the financial crisis and in American history.
It's a simple strategy and one that cannot fail:
The Republican Party, led by their best and brightest economic minds, should immediately host a slew of Town Hall meetings across America and explain to the American people exactly what the government can do to halt and "re-up" the stock market slide in clear and simple terms. The issue here is that the average citizen does not understand the mechanics of the stock market nor accounting procedures. yet they know something is seriously wrong with what is going on as they witness their stock market investments and retirement savings going down the drain. They just don't know how to put it in words- nor do they understand the technical concepts behind the fixes that are available that the Democratic-heavy government apparently does not want to implement.
Because, if the people of this great country realized how simple these fixes are to make- and come to realize through these Town Hall meetings that Obama and his posse haven't already put these fixes into place, when they've had ample opportunity to do so- any anger Main Street has against Wall Street will fly out the window- and, in fact, will be re-focused where it should be- on the Obama administration and certain Democrats in power.
One of these fixes is to fairly modify fair-value accounting (FASB 157's mark-to-market provision), which, strangely enough, is actually something that one of Obama's key advisors has been crusading for- yet Obama seems to have been shutting him out of the process. His name is Paul Volcker, a former Fed Chairman and the guy who actually already saved the United States from a previous economic crisis back in the early 80's. Instead, Obama appears to be hellbent on diverting the American people with rhetoric that Wall Street has gotten away with "accounting tricks" in the past. Yet, the reality is, the current accounting mark-to-market model has been unfairly applied to our institutions- to the incredible detriment of the markets over the last couple of years- and continues to do so. The SEC holds the power to suspend mark-to-market:
Section 132 of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008:
"Restates the Securities and Exchange Commission’s authority to suspend the application of Statement Number 157 of the Financial Accounting Standards Board if the SEC determines that it is in the public interest and protects investors."
Interestingly enough, Mary Schapiro, is the new SEC Chairwoman appointed by the Obama administration, She has not effected action yet, despite the financial crisis being in full force. Another interesting thing to note: both Paul Volcker and current Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner, are both members of the powerful Group Of 30 who endorsed the following:
Fair Value Accounting
a. Fair value accounting principles and standards should be reevaluated with a view to developing more realistic guidelines for dealing with less liquid instruments and distressed markets.
b. The tension between the business purpose served by regulated financial institutions that intermediate credit and liquidity risk and the interests of investors and creditors should be resolved by development of principles-based standards that better reflect the business model of these institutions, apply appropriate rigor to valuation and evaluation of intent, and require improved disclosure and transparency. These standards should also be reviewed by, and coordinated with, prudential regulators to ensure application in a fashion consistent with safe and sound operation of such institutions.
c. Accounting principles should also be made more flexible in regard to the prudential need for regulated institutions to maintain adequate credit loss reserves sufficient to cover expected losses across their portfolios over the life of assets in those portfolios. There should be full transparency of the manner in which reserves are determined and allocated.
So where is Geithner now on this matter- now that he is the guy appointed by President Obama to fix this financial crisis? Ask President Obama.
Another fix is for the SEC or Congress to reinstate a modernized electronic-trading-friendly uptick rule for stock trading, or to ban shorting on the bid, or even to suspend short-selling altogether- as the SEC already did temporarily last autumn (2008) at the outset of the first major leg down in the stock market- which resulted in stock prices roaring back because short-sellers were no longer capable of crushing stock prices downward- therefore destroying not only the stock prices of our great companies and institutions, but also annihilating Main Street America's passive investments, pension and retirement funds tied to the stock market. Unfortunately, the short-selling suspension was lifted about a month before the November 2008 elections. And, stocks began tanking all over again as more public panic ensued. Hmm...
Meantime, over these last months, neither the SEC, the Obama administration nor certain powerful members of Congress have actually undertaken to immediately implement any of the above fixes for the stock market- much to the dismay of those on Wall Street and resulting in mass public confusion and loss of wealth for those on Main Street who are seeing their money fade away with each passing day- and don't understand why.
A third immediate fix is to shut down the credit default swap market- which is a tool used by certain traders to manipulate the financial markets- and which has been under investigation by the SEC since last winter. It's March. Nothing. No fixes made.
And there are more fixes in the toolkit.
Meantime- Republican should jam home the message that President Obama and Democrats are fully aware that these fixes exist for them to effect (which Obama certainly is absolutely aware of), but seem to refuse to do so- and, at very least, are dragging their heels with endless "studies" and politicking.
So now you know.
And if Republicans bring this message to the people in simple terms- and jam it home in the context of my proposed Town Hall meetings (and on national television whenever they have the opportunity), and explain these fixes clearly and logically- Main Street will jump faster before the GOP can say how fast can we get to the next elections.
Except, we don't have until the next elections to get these fixes implemented. If we let things continue as they are- Americans will continue to see their financial well-being go out the window and will remain in panic. Job losses will continue to mount.
It's time for Republicans to move on this- because the Democrats are not. It's for the good of ALL Americans. And Americans will finally understand- in reality- why the "market crisis" persists.
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Saturday, March 7, 2009
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