by Pam Martens and Russ Martens, Wall Street On Parade: We have frequently called out the New York Times for running sycophantic articles on the big, mean, untamed Wall Street banking behemoths which just happen to be one of its home town’s largest industries and source of the biggest paychecks, which, in turn, boost its real estate markets, restaurants and retail sales – not to mention its own ad revenues. According to the Federal government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, financial activities represented 468,600 jobs in New York City as of April 2017. According to a report from the New York State Department of Labor on New York City’s largest industries, as of 2014 the “average annual wage ($404,800) paid in the securities and commodity contracts industry is nearly five times the all-industry average annual wage ($84,752) for 2014.”
But today, the New York Times’ Editorial Board has joined Wall Street On Parade in expressing skepticism about the Federal Reserve giving a green light on the stress tests for 34 banks last week.
After sounding the alarm about the Trump administration’s plans to roll back Obama-era reforms of Wall Street, the New York Times editorial raises the following concerns:
“It’s entirely possible that the system is more fragile than the Fed’s stress tests indicate. By the Fed’s calculations, capital held by the nation’s eight largest banks was nearly 14 percent of assets, weighted by risk, at the end of 2016.
“Alternative calculations of capital, including those that use international accounting rules rather than American accounting principles, put the capital cushion much lower, at 6.3 percent. The difference is largely attributable to regulators’ differing assessment of the risks posed by derivatives, the complex instruments that blew up in the financial crisis and that still are a major part of the holdings of big American banks.
“The passing grades on the Fed’s stress tests pave the way for banks to pay their largest dividends in almost a decade. The hands-down winners will be shareholders and bank executives, who could see their stock-based compensation packages expand further.
“But without continued bank regulation, and heightened vigilance of derivatives in particular, the good fortune of bank investors and bank executives is all too likely to come at the expense of most Americans, who do not share in bank profits but suffer severe and often irreversible setbacks when deregulation leads to a bust.”
We have only two quibbles with this editorial: the tenor is not strong enough and its assertion that “It’s entirely possible that the system is more fragile than the Fed’s stress tests indicate” is false. It’s absolutely certain that the system is more fragile. Here’s how we know.