And what he can still do. Go read it all. Ian Walsh:
The banks have been pretty ungrateful for the massive bailout they received. They have unilaterally increased credit card rates to gouge customers, have been gaming the market (so much so that one quarter many banks didn’t lose money on their trading operations even one day of the quarter), have fought against financial reform, and have generally acted against the interests of the majority of Americans. One might say “well, now that they’re bailed out, there is nothing we can do about it.”
The Fed still holds over $2 trillion in toxic waste from the banks. The banks still hold trillions of dollars of toxic waste. If sold on the open market this stuff would sell for, oh, about 5 cents on the dollar. If forced to mark the assets they are keeping on their books at inflated prices to their actual market value, I doubt there is a single major bank in the country which wouldn’t go bankrupt. Including Goldman Sachs.
So here’s what you do. As the Federal Reserve you sell $100 billion of the toxic waste on the open market. Set an actual price for it. Then you make the banks mark their assets to market value. They go bankrupt. You nationalize them. (Why no?–They are actually bankrupt after all, and they haven’t increased lending like they were supposed to; in fact, they have decreased it.) You make the stockholders take their losses and the bondholders too, then you reinflate the banks. (If the Fed can print trillions to keep zombie banks “alive” it can print money to reinflate nationalized banks.) The banks lend under FDIC and Fed direction, at the interest rates the Fed directs. The FDIC and Fed eventually break the banks up into a reasonable size. And while they’re at it, they get rid of the entire executive class which caused the financial crisis, and have the DOJ go over all the internal memos and start charging everyone who committed fraud. (Hint: that’s virtually every executive at a major bank.) Again, this is completely up to Obama–the DOJ answers to him.
Think Obama can’t do this without Bernanke? Wrong. Obama can fire any Fed Governor for cause and replace them during a Congressional recess with no oversight.* (”Cause” is never defined, but Obama can note that the Fed’s mandate includes maximum employment and not stopping the financial crisis in the first place is certainly plausible as cause as well.)
Obama had the power. Obama had the money. Obama has the power–and the money.
The idea that Obama, or any President, is a powerless shrinking violet, helpless in the face of Congress is just an excuse. Presidents have immense amounts of power: the question is whether or not they use that power, and if they do, what they use it for.
Obama has a huge slush fund with hundreds of billions of dollars and all the executive authority he needs to turn things around.
If Obama is not using that money and authority, the bottom line is it’s because he doesn’t want to.
Putting aside the question of what Obama could have accomplished already, if he wants to help everyday Americans, turn around Democratic approval ratings in time for the midterm elections, and leave behind him a legacy of achievemant, he can still do it. If he wants to.