The Senate Banking Committee is back at it again. The storied senators are bemoaning their lack of courage in creating a reform package for the government-sponsored enterprises.
The amount of time spent on this defeating trend is only reinforcing this notion that merely talking about a subject may implement change. In the end, what will cost more? Reform of the GSEs or paying public officials to talk in circles on the subject?
And speaking of a waste of taxpayer money, the committee spent a meeting earlier this month listening to Paul Volcker talk about too-big-to-fail bailouts, after coming to no conclusion on GSE reform.
Particularly jarring, the former Fed chairman argued that securitization as it is currently practiced is a speculative trade and therefore should be banned. The Volcker rule section of the Dodd-Frank Act restricts banks from proprietary trading.
Volcker said the problems all started when banks moved away from one-on-one customer service and began to engage in transaction-oriented businesses. The result is a "more complex, opaque and very complicated" financial system.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., at one point posited, "The most dangerous thing a bank does is make a loan."
Volcker later indirectly disagreed by hinting highly liquid markets are not in the public's best interest. And he more or less called for the end of mortgage bond trading as we know it.
He argued that when banks originate a mortgage they should be "prepared to keep it for awhile." Of course, securitization moves these loans off the balance sheet. Regardless of whether that loan is bonded by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, "if you think you can trade it tomorrow at no loss, then it becomes speculative," Volcker said.
Volcker added that he used to run a trading desk, and that they didn't do proprietary trading. He also said that lending is a vital form of banking. So, he clearly thinks a mortgage bond market can work.
But just not in any way we've seen so far. Weening off the GSEs is a priority, he said, in response to a request to address Fannie and Freddie by Corker, and begged to not recreate the private-label securitization market seen in the past.
Volcker later spoke of his desire to see capital markets working in symbiosis with the economy at-large. But the solutions he calls for are more of a dream.