As I mentioned a few months ago, the New York Times archive is a great tool to see the history that led to the economic crisis we now face. Here is an article from 1999: Congress Passes Wide Ranging Bill Easing Bank Laws
”Today Congress voted to update the rules that have governed financial services since the Great Depression and replace them with a system for the 21st century,” Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers said. ”This historic legislation will better enable American companies to compete in the new economy.”
The decision to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 provoked dire warnings from a handful of dissenters that the deregulation of Wall Street would someday wreak havoc on the nation’s financial system. The original idea behind Glass-Steagall was that separation between bankers and brokers would reduce the potential conflicts of interest that were thought to have contributed to the speculative stock frenzy before the Depression.
‘The world changes, and we have to change with it,” said Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, who wrote the law that will bear his name along with the two other main Republican sponsors, Representative Jim Leach of Iowa and Representative Thomas J. Bliley Jr. of Virginia. ”We have a new century coming, and we have an opportunity to dominate that century the same way we dominated this century. Glass-Steagall, in the midst of the Great Depression, came at a time when the thinking was that the government was the answer. In this era of economic prosperity, we have decided that freedom is the answer.” In the House debate, Mr. Leach said, ”This is a historic day. The landscape for delivery of financial services will now surely shift.”
But consumer groups and civil rights advocates criticized the legislation for being a sop to the nation’s biggest financial institutions. They say that it fails to protect the privacy interests of consumers and community lending standards for the disadvantaged and that it will create more problems than it solves.
The opponents of the measure gloomily predicted that by unshackling banks and enabling them to move more freely into new kinds of financial activities, the new law could lead to an economic crisis down the road when the marketplace is no longer growing briskly.
”I think we will look back in 10 years’ time and say we should not have done this but we did because we forgot the lessons of the past, and that that which is true in the 1930’s is true in 2010,” said Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota. ”I wasn’t around during the 1930’s or the debate over Glass-Steagall. But I was here in the early 1980’s when it was decided to allow the expansion of savings and loans. We have now decided in the name of modernization to forget the lessons of the past, of safety and of soundness.”
Senator Paul Wellstone, Democrat of Minnesota, said that Congress had ”seemed determined to unlearn the lessons from our past mistakes.”
This is a great view into how both parties foolishly risked the economy to provide favors to their big donors and golfing buddies. It is sad that we chose to elect such people that play such an important role in our economy. But it is not as though we make these choice without easy access to the information on how they govern. And today listening to the people that took the money and voted for these, and similar changes to favor financial friends, they try and make it sound like they are not responsible. And sadly my guess is most people will accept their excuses. Until we do a better job of electing people we are going to continue to suffer the results of bad policy and to pay for the favors politicians give to those giving them money.
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