Last week, the Obama administration declined to cite China for currency manipulation despite the fact that most experts -- including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner during his confirmation testimony -- do not deny the obvious currency-rate fixing by China. Almost certainly, this decision reflected merely a tactical judgment not to offend China, given China's vital role in the international economic recovery effort.
But Chinese currency manipulation provides a useful entry point into an important Washington debate: Do we understand well enough -- and are we in a political position to discuss honestly -- the causes of the current financial and economic crisis to be ready, this year, to enact financial re-regulation legislation?
I would argue not only that we do not understand enough yet but also that we have plenty of time before new financial regulations need to be enacted. (Disclosure: I have given professional advice to a financial institution.) Everyone -- from President Barack Obama to House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank to major free market economists and Republicans -- currently agrees that the gravamen of any new financial re-regulations must be to guard against financial institutions and major players taking systemic risks that may undermine national and international finance again.
And, while the day may well come when that risk will arise, for at least the next year (and probably for several years), the problem will be trying to induce financial institutions to trust one another, trying to induce holders of capital to take any chances on investment. Thus, the financial danger for the time being is not risk taking; it's risk aversion. At their heart, financial relations are based on trust. That trust has been shattered. It almost certainly will take new financial regulations, particularly in the United States, to rebuild that trust.
But for the regulations to serve that necessary function, they must be seen to reflect a correct assessment of the causes of the current calamity, as well as a credible and timely check on those dangers -- and still permit the financial system to generate prosperity.
A number of members of Congress -- mostly from the left side of the political spectrum -- have called for hearings on the causes of the financial failures. Though they may well have ideological oxen they plan to gore at such hearings, I agree with them that there ought to be extensive public hearings.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.
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