Alan Greenspan has written a book report that he will present at the Brookings Institution tomorrow. Some are calling it his "most detailed examination of the causes of the financial crisis." Does he lay out his patented 3-Step Guide For Being Fed Chair (1. Talk like you know your shit, even when you don’t. 2. Cut rates like a Thai hooker with the clap 3. When in doubt, print it out), which may have helped get us into the financial shit-storm du-jour? Not explicitly, no. (Does Coke just up and give out its secret recipe for free? That's what I thought.) Seven Piña coladas into happy hour in the Maldives, however, he did decide to say this:
We never had a sufficiently strong conviction about the risks that could lie ahead. As I noted earlier, we had been lulled into a state of complacency by the only modestly negative economic aftermaths of the stock market crash of 1987 and the dot-com boom. Given history, we believed that any declines in home prices would be gradual. Destabilizing debt problems were not perceived to arise under those conditions.
Threw this in there too:
For years the Federal Reserve had been concerned about the ever larger size of our financial institutions. Federal Reserve research had been unable to find economies of scale in banking beyond a modest-sized institution. A decade ago, citing such evidence, I noted that “megabanks being formed by growth and consolidation are increasingly complex entities that create the potential for unusually large systemic risks in the national and international economy should they fail.” Regrettably, we did little to address the problem.
The believers of Fed “easy money” policy as the root of the housing bubble correctly note that a low fed fund rate (at only 1% between mid-2003 and mid-2004) lowered interest rates for adjustable rate mortgages (ARM). That in turn, they claim, increased demand for homes financed by ARMs and hence were an important contributor to the emergence of the bubble.
Having said all that? Lest any of you pipsqueaks (Benji) even think about daring to pin one iota of blame for all this shit on him? THINK AGAIN. There was nothing that could've been do done.
Could the breakdown that so devastated global financial markets have been prevented? Given inappropriately low financial intermediary capital (i.e. excessive leverage) and two decades of virtual unrelenting prosperity, low inflation, and low long-term interest rates, I very much doubt it.