Friday, January 30, 2009

How Much Is Power Really Worth?

Last night, Chairman and former CEO of BB&T (and capitalist uber-BAMF), John Allison, gave a speech on the financial crisis in D.C. as part of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights' Lecture Series. The video is not up yet, but this article sums it up:

Allison: BB&T Grabbing Customers From Rivals To Boost Loans

BB&T is one of the only large banks that has increased its lending in recent months, while the industry as a whole is being criticized for taking TARP funds and sitting on them. Obviously, this criticism exposes deep ignorance of the banking business model, but in addition to that, Allison points out that it isn't even the banks' decision:

"The truth is we're mostly moving market share, because a number of our competitors are under pretty severe duress, so we're picking up clients," he told Dow Jones Newswires Thursday.

"It's not that we wouldn't lend to our own clients," he added. "They're just not borrowing."

Go figure that in a recession, after years of incurring debt and splurging, Americans might shy away from borrowing. But, remember, it's still the banks' fault.

In a somewhat related note, I found this MarketWatch piece on how Obama is picking idiots who helped fuel this mess as his clean-up team, instead of bankers who managed to navigate through it. Here are a few nice excerpts:

"The only question I'd have for Allison is if he wanted to run the Treasury or the Fed."

"It [The author's financial dream team] includes Peter Schiff, a regular on business TV shows, who warned against a real estate collapse. Alone, that prediction was hardly unique, but what set Schiff apart was what he forecast as the fallout: deep recession, credit crunch and bank failures. Yes, that sounds familiar."

"There is one knock on all of these candidates: none has any significant government experience.
Of course, judging by the government's performance, you already knew that."
The suggestion of recruiting the talented business minds listed in this article got me thinking about Mr. Thompson from Atlas Shrugged asking John Galt to be economic dictator. Even if one knows the answer (i.e. knows the proper role of government) how exactly would one bring that about in an industry so intricately tied to the government as banking. You'd have to dismantle the Fed. How do you do that without a run on the dollar? These are interesting questions to ponder, and I'm interested in ideas others have on the issue.

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