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In which lambert apologizes, again, for being prematurely correct


Why not just make banks regulated public utilities?
Why not put access to credit -- at least to little people like us -- on the same basis as access to other forms of power like electricity, gas, and water? Why not turn the banks into regulated public utilities like the water company, the power company, or the gas company?

So far as I can tell, there's no need for "complex," "innovative" financial instruments at all; and they call them investment vehicles because they're designed to drive off with your money. What was wrong with community banks handling the really boring business of mortgages at 4%? What was wrong with a retirement system that didn't depend on speculation?

Bill Moyers (!), 2009-01-23:

BILL MOYERS: Some people [Who? I thought I was the only lunatic with this idea, so who are the others?] are talking about treating the banks — not nationalizing them but treating them as utilities, you know? Like we do the electric company-

THOMAS FRANK: In a lot of ways we think about banks mentally in that way, right? That's certainly how we thought about, you know, the savings and loans. It's how we think about a lot of these enterprises. And yet, of course, that's not what they are at all. And that's not what their function has actually been in reality. Their function is — they're driving the economy, you know, they're calling the shots, you know, all across the whole system.

To think of them that way, I mean, you're talking about the segment of the economy that's been so fantastically prosperous. You know, when I went to college I remember all the kids going off to become investment bankers-

BILL MOYERS: Investment bankers, right.

THOMAS FRANK: -and stuff like that. And they were doing very well until a couple of months ago. And you know, that was — it was drawing all the best and the brightest into that field. I mean, to go off and to become a historian was a, you know, really deluded idea that I had. But to change banks into that, you know, into a sort of a utility, oh, man, I mean, you're talking about — that's an earthquake.

Yes. And?

Clearly, the idea is new to Frank. And Sirota (the other interviewee) doesn't say anything at allMR SUBLIMINAL Which is quite unusual for him. So, wherever this idea may be percolating, the pundits on the left haven't woken up and smelled the coffee.

Now, normally I run the "prematurely correct" riff on posts from months or years ago. I'm running it here because I don't recall anyone else advocating the idea; I was writing a check to the electric company, and the idea just came to me.

So either -- unlikely as it may seem -- Bill Moyers is a Corrente reader, or the idea of making banks into regulated public is "in the air." But where? Can anyone come up with some links? Because I did some searching and couldn't come up with any. Readers?

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Submitted by lambert on

What I'd really like is some other plausible provenance. Doubtful anything with the "S" word in it would make it past the mental censors, and typically material like this comes from AEI or Brookings or Think Progress or whatever. If it it hasn't, I'm forced to the conclusion that Moyers reads the dirtiest of the fucking hippies in the blogosphere -- which would include you, Ian ;-) and that is a very interesting data point indeed.