Simon Johnson Decries Influence Of Wall Street Oligarchs, US A Banana Republic

If you haven’t read economist Simon Johnson’s piece in this month’s  Atlantic, find some time this weekend to do so  (We’ll post some excerpts here later today). 

Johnson’s the former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, and he outlines what he sees as the alarming influence of Wall Street firms over the American economy.  I interviewed him on TechTicker yesterday, and he expounded on his thesis:

America’s Crisis Resembles that of Emerging Markets: While at the IMF, Johnson saw so many financial crises that the core problem became old hat: In the free-wheeling growth years of an economic boom, the politicians and oligarchs of an emerging market like Russia or Argentina would get so close that eventually they would meld into a politico-industrial complex. As long as the boom lasted, this cozy relationship never bothered anyone–because everyone was getting rich. Fast forward to the latest market crisis–the one in the United States. The pattern is exactly the same, with a two-way money-and-power corridor now running between Washington and the modern oligarchs Wall Street.

But There Are Key Differences: In the emerging markets, eventually, the bubble would burst. The banks and corporations would collapse, and suddenly it would be up to the government to seize and restructure the insolvent banks. In America, though, there will be no such defining collapse, nor a quick recovery, he argues. Instead, we face a “painful” L-shaped recovery, drawn out over 3-5 years.

Wall Street: “It’s Too Big, Too Powerful. It’s Dangerous” Simon argues that the U.S. should invoke anti-trust laws to break up Wall Street, whose power poses a material threat to the American economy.

Simon Johnson is a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute and a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He is a co-founder of the popular economics blog, BaselineScenario.

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