News Release

Global Financial Crisis


Available for a limited number of interviews, Ferguson is professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He is the author of Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems (University of Chicago Press).

Ferguson noted that the Financial Times reported in its Thursday print edition: “The Federal Reserve — while very supportive of the asset purchase plan — has believed for at least four months that recapitalization of the banking system is the most potent way to fight the credit squeeze. But the Treasury has hitherto been skeptical about recapitalization, in part because of concern over the degree of government intervention this would imply. Now the Treasury seems to have come round to the view that direct recapitalization makes sense on economic grounds — though the U.S. is certain to tailor its approach to its own domestic conditions.”

Professor Ferguson commented today: “The disclosure yesterday that the Federal Reserve has been urging bank recapitalization for four months, while the Treasury has resisted, is stunning. It should give everyone pause and attract immediate attention from regulators and Congress.

“So should the article’s reference to market fundamentalism (‘concern over the degree of government intervention’) as the reason for Treasury’s resistance. What all this gobbledygook really means is that the Treasury Secretary and his friends in the financial sector resist sharing any of the upside from government intervention with taxpayers whose money will be used to save them. They are determined to preserve existing shareholders from dilution by new preferred stock issuance.

“The decision to put Paulson’s young former special assistant [Neel Kashkari] in charge of the bailout program only adds to one’s doubts. Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times and others have raised serious questions about Secretary Paulson’s calculations in previous bailout episodes. Der Spiegel’s report yesterday that Treasury is thinking that any shares it does take should be non-voting is even more disturbing. Days after the Treasury rescued AIG, the company was throwing lavish parties. The government needs voting shares to stop such nonsense.

“With … everyone’s pensions, 401Ks and other financial reserves shrinking by the hour, it is high time for Congress to insist immediately that the bailout program convert itself into a modern version of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation. Treasury should not be allowed to ‘tailor its approach’ — it just needs to focus like the proverbial laser on increasing bank capital by direct injections of equity into banks that can be saved. And the bailout needs to be run in a completely transparent manner, with clearly stated, publicly verifiable criteria for making the investments. It is intolerable that everyone’s financial assets continue to be put at risk for ideological goals and private profits.”
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The G-7, International Monetary Fund and World Bank are meeting this weekend. On a short visit to the U.S., Bond is based in South Africa, where he is professor of development studies and director of the Center for Civil Society at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and has long scrutinized these institutions.

Bond said today: “The global economy’s vast financial sector expansion has occurred in the context of productive sector stagnation which dates back more than three decades.

“Thus far, since the early 1980s, the management of the crisis has increased the leading power brokers’ capacity to ‘devalue’ large parts of the Third World, including major emerging market sites like South Africa — as well as to write down selected financially volatile and vulnerable markets in the North (e.g. and real estate bubbles). In contrast to the early 1930s, this set of partial write-downs has not yet created such generalized panic and crisis contagion as to threaten the entire system’s integrity. Shifting and stalling the crisis over the past decades has meant allowing idle capital to bubble up into speculative markets, and has also increased extra-economic coercion (the way Naomi Klein describes in her book ‘The Shock Doctrine’).

“The result is a world economy that concentrates wealth and poverty in more extreme ways, geographically, and brings markets and the non-market spheres of society and nature together in a manner adverse to the latter. Reform of the system is long overdue, but is hampered by severe bias in multilateral financial and development agencies, amounting to a neoliberal-neoconservative fusion. No ‘global governance’ initiatives appear to be succeeding, either with respect to financial imbalances, trade, United Nations reform, climate control or other crucial global-scale problems.

“Moreover, there is constrained space and political will at national level in most states, requiring much more aggressive civil society activism, such as the email/phone swarm that intimidated the U.S. House of Representatives from approving Paulson’s initial bailout.

“In short, what this means is an urgent need for U.S. citizens to:

a) transcend U.S.-centric understandings of the financial meltdown, especially those based on superficial epiphenomena (corruption, deregulation, greed, fraud, consumer overindebtedness);
b) think more deeply about the problems building in the U.S.-led world markets, going back several decades;
c) look realistically at the limited ability of world institutions — e.g. the Bretton Woods Institutions [such as the IMF and World Bank] having their annual meetings in Washington this weekend — to solve problems, given the adverse power balance and self-interested leadership;
d) consider whether any national state — even the U.S. under an Obama administration — will have the scope to generate solutions given how deep and wide the crisis has become; and
e) instead support various creative initiatives of civil society groups across the U.S. and the world, who have made history under similar circumstances of crisis and renewed social activism.”

Bond is author of the recent paper “The U.S. financial meltdown: What really happened? Roots of the economic crisis in overaccumulation, financialization and ‘global apartheid.'” A Power Point presentation of his work is available here.

Bond was formerly a Pacifica Radio economics correspondent and Washington correspondent for American Public Media’s “Marketplace.” He studied at Swarthmore, the Wharton School of Finance and Johns Hopkins and wrote more than a dozen public policies for Nelson Mandela’s first democratic South African government.

Bond’s recently authored and edited books include “Looting Africa: The Economics of Exploitation,” “Talk Left, Walk Right” and “Against Global Apartheid: South Africa meets the World Bank, IMF and International Finance.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167