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Need to Know: July 13, 2012: Braking the banks

This week's host Jeff Greenfield

Need to Know profiles Better Markets, a nonprofit advocacy organization that believes additional banking regulations are needed to prevent another financial meltdown.

Jeff Greenfield interviews Peter Wallison of the American Enterprise Institute, which opposes new federal banking regulations.

The “American Voices” essay is by Rasanath Dasa, a former investment banker who participated in the Occupy Wall Street protests after quitting his job and becoming a Hindu monk.

What’s on this week:

Braking the banks

Need to Know profiles a nonprofit advocacy organization that believes additional banking regulations are needed to prevent another financial meltdown.

Peter Wallison

Peter Wallison of the American Enterprise Institute, which opposes new federal banking regulations.

American Voices

This week’s essay is by Rasanath Dasa, a former investment banker who quit his job and became a Hindu monk.

Watch more full episodes of Need to Know.


  • Ann Ahlander

    First of all, I being the computer ignoramus that I am cannot for the life of me figure out how to access the poll that you asked your viewers to participate in regarding the failed banking system in America. I’ll just have to throw in my two cents this way.  Anymore the way I see it, there is no clear distinction between big banks, Wall Street, mortgage companies, or Washington politics.  The American dream of home ownership looks pretty dead in the water for the millions in this country who will never know what it is to make a living wage.  I never would have imagined buying a home to be as risky as playing craps in Vegas, but it seems to have turned out that way.  And those who bought houses with little or no income by which to pay that monthly mortgage haven’t helped the cause.  We the dramatically shrinking middle class are having to bail out the rich AND the poor – Wall Street, foreclosures, junk mortgages, etc., etc.  Somebody’s got to pay, but it won’t be the rich or the poor I just spoke of; it’ll be the rest of us stuck in the middle, what little of the middle is left.  Deregulation hurts banks?  Hell!  In the decades since Ronald Reagan’s famous (and fatally flawed) “trickle down theory” deregulation of the banking industry has only helped the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the middle class join the ranks of the working poor.  How many billionaires do we need to reward with million-dollar bonuses for utterly failed business practices?  No, I am 100 percent behind the Occupy Wall Street movement.  The next economic collapse will make the French Revolution look like a puppet show. 


    Wish Joe Stiglitz could “answer” that Reagan administration honcho.  Stiglitz “predicted” Big Money would blame the banking debacle on GOVERNMENT MAKING BANKS loan to the poor/middle class for HOUSING, when the real problem was that the banking “industry” (organized crime syndicate is a better descriptor) wanted to make BIG PROFITS off people they would not otherwise give loans to, and then set up subprime mortgage based DERIVIATIVES to “bet” the mortgage holders would fail.  The problem is that so much of the so-called “innovation” in finance is really all about making hazardous “gambling”/speculation LOOK legit/honorable, hiding the usury that came about after Bill Clinton signed the law eliminating Glass Steagall.  People wised up to the banks charging poor/middle class people more for services, and giving the wealthy “discounts”–they protested and hurt the banks’ credibility, as well as hitting them where they lived by moving their accounts.  Too bad we can’t all withhold TAXES b/c we disapprove of how politicians are in the pockets of the “FIRE” (Financial, Insurance, Real Estate) men, but, of course, that would mean less money for educating OUR young, paying police and fire to protect US, take care of our seniors and disabled folks, etc. instead of telling people like Jamie Dimon, “Sorry; we can’t AFFORD to bail out your bank–again!” or tell Halliburton/Kellogg Brown & Root–”Sorry, we can’t AFFORD to pay you $20/plate for cheese noodles for our military.” Sorry, folks, it’s not a class war–that took place behind our backs, and the wealthy won; you’ll find the $25 TRILLION in assets the middle class has lost in the offshore bank accounts (they off-shore our money like they off-shore our jobs) of the likes of Dimon, Diamond, Romney, and their ilk.


    A link to the poll is on the home page of this site–the first “story”

    Add insurance, pharmaceutical and hospital corporations to your list and you’ll see what American’s REAL health care crisis is–too many people reaping too much money from products they do not build/produce themselves and/or services they do not provide themselves.  Most of Big Business expects absolute loyalty and most of the “energy” of the employees it doesn’t want to pay a living wage, decent benefits and/or job security (ie, employer loyalty to the employee).  Many corporations now want to impose their “religious beliefs” on their employees and eschew even birth control, so the mothers can limit how much time they have to take off–and how much career sacrifice they have to make–kids.  And they have the unmitigated GALL to take the “moral high ground?!?” Surely the First Amendment rights of individual HUMAN persons should take precedence over a “virtual individual.” I thought the Bill of Rights was intended to PROTECT the “little guy” from more powerful interests? What happened?

  • Mosesmc52

    Peter Wallison argues that the 2008 Financial crisis is a result of government failure to regulate the mortgage industry, but he fails to mention the influence of banking on lobbing the government. If the banking industry had less influence in shaping government policy, as oppose to advocacy consumer organizations such as better markets, the U.S. government policy would perhaps, mitigated, if not reduced the most significant impact of the financial crisis.

  • Ogreenberg

    I wish there were many more organizations like Better Markets.  We sure need them.  Wall St and the banks desperately need to be regulated to the brim!!  Little chance of that happening.  The Government is in their pockets.

  • Giyakker

    I was very disappointed that Jeff Greenfield did not challenge Peter Wallison’s assertion that government was responsible for the mortgage debacle that caused the financial collapse. Government did not tell thousands of fraudulent mortgage brokers to loan money to people who couldn’t afford a home. Government didn’t tell investment banks to overlook the fraud and buy these mortgages, package them into securities for sale to unwary investors all over the world. Government didn’t tell the ratings agencies to give AAA approval to these securites in exchange for a cut from the financiers.

  • Pselgee

    This was an enlightening show to say the least. 
    Basically, Wall Street can do what it wants. 
     Since they have bribed our Congress to the tune of $100 million, all regulation was removed.
    “Free Market” really means, “Let the Banks make money even if it means collapsing not only the economy of the US, but world wide financial disaster.”

    I have learned that republicans get 70% of the bribes.
    Obama has passed the framework for regulating the markets, but not the laws.
    Better Markets has outlined what needs to be done.
    So as I see it, the republicans will defeat any laws to bring regulation back to Wall Street.
    Another Crash will have even more dire consequences.
    If Obama is willing to commit to bringing stability through financial regulation, he needs a democratic congress who commits to regulating Wall Street.
    Republicans brag that Obama can not do anything.  Republicans will not do it on their own. 
    Can it get any more simple?

    Obama must campaign on what needs to be done.  He should educate the public.
    PBS needs to help educate the people.
    PBS can not continue to be obscure and get an intelligent solution across.

  • Steve Banicki

    The dirty laundry showing in the banking industry is also worn by our politicians. Why is not Obama and Romney talking about what is going on in banking; not only the LIBOR scandal, but the huge trading losses incurred by JP Morgan Chase. In traditional politics our candidates would get free air time in all news outlets and be on television front and center. Further, politicians in America  are much quieter about this scandal than their counter parts in the U.K..

    In years gone by Romney would be shouting “it is happening on Obama’s watch.” Obama would be uttering “let’s get those scoundrels.” The legislative branch is just as silent. Congressman Spencer Bachus, Chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services and Tim Johnson, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs would be holding hearings and issuing subpoenas calling bankers on the carpet like they did during the collapse of the auto industry. I still remember Senator Shelby publicly demeaning the auto executives. Where is he now?

    The silence is obvious. What is not so obvious is why. If one imagines the possible reasons for Washington being so quiet, high on the list would be the fact that the financial services industry is a heavy contributor to political campaigns. After all, we do have a major campaign going on right now. Could this be the reason? Where is Thomas M. Hoenig when you need him? More:

  • jan

     I’ll be going third party this time.  Obama had his chance and didn’t do any of the things we needed.  It’s become clear it doesn’t matter whether republicans or democrats win.  They’ll pass the same policies directed towards further enriching the few.  That is what our elections have become.

  • JohnC

    Evil loves the darkness…….yes bring in the light! Bring in thew good people……the watchdogs! To prevent these greedy creeps from destroying OUR country!

  • J Southern

    Mr. Wallison did not differentiate between home mortgage loans that were originate to distribute versus originate to hold and it was the originate to distribute home mortgage loans where mortgage originators were paid fees and bonuses that led to income stated mortgage loans commonly referred to as ”liar loans.” If the home mortgages were held by the entity making the loan and thus were liable in the event of the home owner defaulting on his loan then in all liklihood higher lending standards would have been upheld and the subprime mortgage crisis avoided. While Mr. Wallison was a member of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission apparently he is unaware that it was not federal housing policy that caused the subrprime problem, but the abuse of the mortgage originators who were paid fees and bonuses on the number of home mortgages that they originated then quickly distributed to avoid the liability of poor lending standards. J Southern 

  • Theresa-smith

    chutzpah!  Right on the nose.

  • Theresa-smith

    Indeed Monsanto is another monster that is bribing the politicians and benefitting from starving the regulators.

  • Jim McGoodwin

    I was very disappointed in Jeff Greenfield’s noninterview with Peter Wallison. He seemed to sit there like a couch potato and let Mr. Wallison go through his talking points without challenge.  Mr. Greenfield is a commentator I like, however, I have to wonder whether he was just too uninformed to challenge Mr Wallison’s statements or is this Need to Know’s idea of providing equal time to the “other side”.  In any event the interview was uninformatve and added nothing meaningful to the broadcast.  Maybe your staff should watch HBO’s Newsroom before you do another show and learn to act like journalists.