30 Issues: Too Big To Fail

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

30 Issues in 30 Days is our election year series on the important issues facing the country this election year. Today: A look at the current state of the financial sector, including big banks, borrowers and lenders and the housing market. Visit the 30 Issue home page for all the conversations.

Open Prep: Questions, Articles, and Links to Get You Started

Key Questions

  • Is America too big to fail?
  • Are lenders and borrowers treated differently post-housing bubble burst?
  • Has Occupy Wall Street made a difference?
  • Does Dodd-Frank do anything?
  • Why didn't Obama nationalize the banks?

What are your key questions on this topic? Post them below and get the conversation going!


Got a Follow Up?

Each Friday we'll be following up on one of that week's issues. Got a particular follow-up question from this conversation? Comment below or tweet us. Tweet to @brianlehrer

Comments [39]

Alejandro from Queens

Oct. 08 2012 08:25 AM
Dick from Morristown, NJ from Morristown, NJ

Interesting show on polling today. How do they take into account many people today do not have telephone land lines? Verizon, in fact, quit publishing white pages because the number of land lines is in such decline. Cellphones, of course, are unlisted.

Oct. 02 2012 04:07 PM
Henry from Katonah

Listening from the archive in the PM ...
Thank you, Sheila Bair for your response to Ken in the Bronx about lending to the poor. If only half of the GOP Congress were honest enough to agree with you. Ken followed the Fox talking point so exactly, I was surprized he did not name Barney Frank.
I don't know what more Queens from Queens wants from you. Right wingers "suggest" this trend because they cannot actually document it.

Oct. 02 2012 02:54 PM
Kathleen E LPV from Long Branch, NJ

Look, "borrowing without means to pay back" started with Reagan. Somehow from FDR to today, our Representatives & the media see Wall St. as the "main indicator of our GDP"! How is that? How did that become America's mantra?
We've gone from a "thrifty" people to a "Consumerist" people [iPhone5 lines!?!]. From the 50-70s we were a solvent & growing society. Why? Because wages were fair & we saved. We didn't "Need to Have" every new gadget on the market. The Consumerist attitude is as much to blame for the mess we're in as housing, bundling, etc., by pushing "spend on credit" as being healthy for our country & world.
That adds to the inequality of workers. The middle class & poor have seen: Wage stagnation, Loss of Benefits, Higher Costs for daily needs, while the wealthy have had: Huge Increases of income, Huge Bonuses, & bigger Tax credits [for "investors"] via lower rates for Capitol gains. Problem is, where J Q Public "invests" - it doesn't pay back in Capitol gains, so no lower rates, & our investments flux with Wall St. up & downs. We loose half our investment, but the very wealthy can afford to loose & still buy that fourth home or new yatch!
The business of Wall St. is gambling, pure & simple! These derivatives & hedge funds are about borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. You & I are Peter the wealthy & brokers are Paul. While we can't buy stocks "on margin" as in the 20s, almost all of J Q Public's assets: retirement; home, car, college, & other loans, credit cards, have some connection or another to Wall St. Either way those at the top have won, those in the middle to bottom have lost - big time!

Oct. 02 2012 12:46 PM
fuva from Harlemworld

PLEASE POSE/ANSWER THIS QUESTION AT SOME POINT THIS WEEK: What effect do high earners have on the overall standard of living -- on the average person's expectation of living standard?

Oct. 02 2012 12:02 PM
Leo from Queens

Brian!: I'm shocked at your refusal to face reality. we are NOT becoming like Latin America . WE ARE Latin America. I noticed that before SEpt 11. Since then we've been moving at high speed to the Latin American 'Neo capitalist /repressive' model.

Not only when it comes to wealth and financial inequality, but in how the security apparatus of the state is being used to repress. (example1: Bloomberg's use of NYPD during Republican convention and against Occupy Wall Street.
To be more specific, we are at the Chilean/Argentinian model of the 1970's and rapidly heading to the Salvadoran/Guatemalan model of the 80's and 90's

Oct. 02 2012 11:48 AM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

I blame 45 years of GOP rope-a-dope....Middle income earners have been focused on 'not falling', that is keeping up with inflation. Our GDP has grown at twice the rate of inflation over the period. The attacks on organized labor and illegal immigration have sped up the decline of the middle income earner but that are symptoms, not the disease.

Oct. 02 2012 11:47 AM

Paul Taylor needs to keep up with the news. Somewhat less equal? The US is the MOST unequal industrial democracy in the world. It has the lowest social mobility of any industrial democracy.

We are NOT fairing well on the GINI coefficient. We are lower than ALL of the countries in Western Europe.

Taylor is lying.

Additionally, the Federal Reserve released its Survey of Consumer Finances earlier this year. That shows that the average American is poorer now than he/she was ten years ago. The average American is moving down the wealth ladder while the top 5% and 1% and higher are doing better.

How can Taylor be treated as an authority of any kind on this? He clearly doesn't know what he's talking about.

Oct. 02 2012 11:44 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

"Middle Class" is a freakish and fleeting phenomenon that briefly occurs after winning a big war. The 30 years of post-WWII peaked in 1973 when oil prices put a halt to it. After that, we started to borrow heavily to try to maintain it, and put in all kinds of government subsidies, but it finally collapsed in 2009. There'll be no more major middle class in America, so we better get used to it, because we have no other choice but to do so.

Oct. 02 2012 11:44 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

Wow...inequality should be discussed in quiet rooms? LOL
What an unbelievable unrepentant douchebag
It will be a disgrace if Mitt the Twit becomes President...

Oct. 02 2012 11:41 AM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

Guess again, HughSansom.

QE2 - and the subsequent rise in commodity food prices that it caused - was the significant driver for the Arab Spring.

Cheap money from the FED that is spent non-domestically is just another instance of our cutting our own throats.

Oct. 02 2012 11:38 AM

Fail for whom? It already has failed for a huge percentage of our people. Certainly the poor have been subject to interior exile, banished to ghettos and deserts, as good as marked with a tattoo on their forhead as unwashed, unwanted, undesirable. Fail for working class people? That's happened too. The entire "free" trade treaties were always intended to send manufacturing jobs to other countries, and crush the working class down to poverty level. That's happened. Fail many middle class families: that's happened too. How many jobs are now salaried without overtime, just a scam to force people to work a mandatory 60 or sometimes 70 or 80 hour week, without employers having to pay for it. Healthcare and dental is unaffordable. No more pensions, they are gone, and the politicians now want to take away social security and medicare too.

The country has failed the majority of its citizens. The quaint concept of affirmative action -- intervention of the law to remedy centuries of discrimination against women and non-whites -- has been removed from our books. It's perfectly okay to refuse to hire women or non-whites, and good luck ever proving your job is "comparable" to another for purposes of a wage discrimination claim. Women and non-whites are the majority, and are now legally the victims of institutional and systematic discrimination.

So the only question remaining is what is the purpose of our country? Who is being served. The answer is the super-rich and the politicians they own. For the rest of us, the nation has failed. Which doesn't mean that something new and better could not rise out of the ashes. But for that to happen, it will require negotiated agreements between and among women, non-whites, labor, environmentalists, various interest groups, to get out in the streets and actively support each other's demands. You show up for a pro-abortion demonstration, and I'll show up for your immigrant rights demonstration. Quid pro quo, like grown-ups do it. You work for me, put your body in the street on behalf of my demands, and I will do the same for you. That is the only way. Negotiated agreements backed up with integrity.

Oct. 02 2012 11:38 AM
Joseph from New York City

Was "Glass Steagall" even mentioned?

Oct. 02 2012 11:37 AM

"The inflation risks are substantial" . . . wrong wrong wrong. Bair is dead wrong.

Oct. 02 2012 11:33 AM
Leo from Queens

"It just lines people's pockets"!. LOVE IT!!!

Oct. 02 2012 11:33 AM

Sheila Bair is thinking like a lawyer and she is betraying that, despite how much she knows, she is no economist.

Bernanke's latest round of quantitative easing is directly aimed at the housing market, which history shows is where recoveries have begun.

Bair's claim that our problems are fiscal in nature is essentially conservative and she is dead wrong on this — absolutely dead wrong, as Paul Krugman and many others have argued exhaustively.

Again, she's thinking like a lawyer, not an economist.

Oct. 02 2012 11:31 AM
Jim from NJ

Please ask, what was wrong with glass steagall and why can't we have it back?

Oct. 02 2012 11:30 AM

Is Geithner as big a lackey for Wall St as everyone suspects?

Oct. 02 2012 11:28 AM

Sheila Bair has totally ignored the fact that the biggest banks are now _bigger_ than they were. If they were too big to fail before, they must be so now.

Oct. 02 2012 11:27 AM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

My contention has been that the 2008 six months of $4/g gasoline turned the 'bunker fire' of the sub-prime mortgates and securitization into the conflagration of 2008 that nearly destroyed us.

How right am I?

Oct. 02 2012 11:27 AM
hicoachrich from Murray Hill

PLEASE----why can't we work on the third part of the math equation on mortgages----the length of the loan----to extend it would mean to LOWER the payment---arithmetic---and allow for the market to come back and allow for eventual sale. it is a false premise that people pay off their mortgages. they sell their homes. they simply need more time for the mmarket to come back. we talk about the interest rate---we talk about lowering the pricipal---which i find irresponsible on borrower---but we never talk about lengthening the loan so as to lower the payments.

Oct. 02 2012 11:26 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Leo from Queens, I'd add Brooksley Born (former head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, who stood up to Alan Greenspan & lost her job for it) to that very short list, along w/Ms. Bair.

Oct. 02 2012 11:25 AM

Obama is just lying about his stance on banking. He has _never_ proposed anything like re-instituting Glass-Steagal. He has caved to the banks repeatedly, especially via Timothy Geithner. He has abetted the steady gutting of what little was worthwhile in Dodd-Frank.

Oct. 02 2012 11:24 AM
Peter from New York City

The Bush administration changed the bankruptcy code to make filing more difficult, not Clinton.

Oct. 02 2012 11:24 AM
Charles from NYC

A person that I know has just declared bankruptcy earlier this year because he was unable to pay off his credit card debt on several cards. Now, just months later, he was able to get three more credit cards, albeit with lower credit lines. It seems like nothing has changed with the banks' lending standards. Why isn't there more regulation regarding good lending practices?

Oct. 02 2012 11:24 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Could Ms. Bair define the distinction btwn. solvency & liquidity for non-financially-oriented folks? When I hear "solvent" & "liquid," I tend to think of chemistry. (I know there used to be a Chemical Bank, but I don't think that has anything to do with it!)

Oct. 02 2012 11:22 AM
Queens from Queens

Ms. Bair: This meme has not been 'suggested'.. It is the main point given by right wingers, Opinion writer, FOx News and bankers, that they were being forced to lend to poor people against their will, which is BS.

This has been used to reflect blame from the bankers and organized crime to minorities and the poor.
The bankers went after the poor at the peak of the bubble since they needed more mortgages to package, slice and dice and sell as good investments.

Oct. 02 2012 11:20 AM

World economic devastation and no one has even been investigated.

Oct. 02 2012 11:19 AM

As someone not a part of congress or fannie mae or freddie mac, please explain the relationships between those institutions. If fannie and freddie were mostly private corporations, how much influence did congress have on them as opposed that of shareholders and ratings agencies?

Oct. 02 2012 11:19 AM

A key point is being lost in the discussion with Sheila Bair. '

What drove the financial crisis was the housing bubble. A key feature of the bubble was the subprime loan fiasco. But subprime loans were only _part_ of the housing bubble. Wealthy buyers were every bit as much a part of the bubble as the poor and middle classes.

Oct. 02 2012 11:19 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Again, traditional subprime mortgages are not a problem. They have been around for decades.

The problem was fraud and incompetence. Banks started originating and buying bad loans, then Wall st rating agencies were falsely securitizing them as AAA, with investment banks and other counter-parties leveraging up themselves up to their eyeballs in it, and of course fannie and freddie even buying some of them up, before the house of cards fell down.

Oct. 02 2012 11:18 AM

Why isn't anyone in jail?!!?!

...particularly, Tim Geithner??

Oct. 02 2012 11:17 AM
YM from nyc

Even Spain, whose banks got a shot of liquidity, thanks to Germany, is now looking for a second wave of debt to prep-up the citizens of Spain - it's not enough to inject money into banks it seems - no matter what the country.
That's craziness.
Banks should = people but that equation is broken

Oct. 02 2012 11:16 AM
Joe from nearby

Why didn't we follow the Iceland Model?

Iceland's mess is now cleaned up, ours is not.

Oct. 02 2012 11:15 AM
bernie from bklyn

@leo from queens- exactly! obama showed his true colors when he named geithner treasury secretary....99% of our legislators are funded, supported and used by wall st. for their advantage and that won't change any time soon. campaign finance reform is the only way, any other conversation is a waste of breath.

Oct. 02 2012 11:11 AM
Leo from queens

Antoinette: To add to your post, since the Supreme Court has determined that Corporations are people, "my friend", then shouldn't they fall under the same set of laws and restrictions that other people are subjected to? Why the double standard?

Not just HSBC, but Standard Chartered bank from Britan which got a slap on the wrist while there is plenty of evidence that they were laundering money for a terrorist state. I bet you I would not get a slap on the wrist if I gave a donation to a non-profit organization in Gaza. I will spend decades in Jail and will have my assets confiscated.

These banks should be treated the same if they are people too, "my friend".

Oct. 02 2012 10:48 AM
Leo from Queens

At the time that the new president (Obama) was naming his cabinet I felt it was a great crime against this country that he named Geithner as Treasury Secretary. At that point, and I still think he should have named Ms. Bair as Treasury secretary.

She was the only person in finance who knew what she was talking about and was telling the truth (in a subtle way) about the infiltration of organized crime in the financial sector.

Oct. 02 2012 10:26 AM
Antoinette Byam from Brooklyn, NY

Commenting about HSBC earlier, I stated that Congress was aware, how could I make such a mistake, Congress of course remains immobile and blissfully unaware. It was the Senate who exposed HSBC.

Sep. 16 2012 05:25 PM
Antoinette Byam from Brooklyn, NY

Brian, this seems the most likely place to post this comment. A few weeks ago Congress determined that HSBC was laundering money to drug cartels in Mexico, and everything is continuing as if this is no big deal, yet young,particularly black and hispanic, people continue to be targeted for selling drugs. It has been common knowledge in many communities for some time that the street dealers could not possibly be responsible for the influx of drugs in neighborhoods. Now, it's out there and NOBODY is taking on HSBC. What is going on? I would really like to hear what Raymond Kelly and the heads of HSBC have to say about this.

Sep. 16 2012 02:20 PM

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