Innovations in technology and politics have been significant factors for the expansion of government agencies and the administrative laws that govern citizens. Seaquist (2012) suggests these government agencies are also considered the fourth branch of government. Since the 1930s, the federal government has been expanding its regulatory authority on most areas that affect commerce. Congress created these administrative agencies to oversee and manage specific functions. In addition, they are empowered to create agency rules set forth by guidelines provided from the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Furthermore, these agencies have the force of the law to support them (Seaquist, 2012). For example, Federal agencies consist of two separate branches: (a) independent and (b) executive. These agencies manage regulatory control and are powerful entities. Independent agencies (some of which include the EPA, EEOC, FCC, ICC and FTC) are granted the power to create their own rules, enforce them, conduct investigations and arbitrate disputes. In other words, they have been granted the power to act as legislator, law-enforcement, judge and jury. Executive agencies, on the other hand, serve to assist carrying out the responsibilities of the executive branch of the government. These agencies include the Justice Department’s FBI, the Treasury Department’s US Customs Service, the FDA is part of the Health and Human Services Department, and the FAA is an offshoot of the Transportation Department. These agencies, unlike independent agencies, are under the direction and control of the US President, who is also responsible for appointing and removing staff members. These agencies serve to regulate and control laws that govern society.
With all these agencies and the government regulations established, how was an event like the credit crisis of 2008 even possible? Blinder (2013) reminds us that as many witnessed the financial crisis unfold, one of the most perplexing issues Americans faced was how very little explanation was offered as to why and how it occurred. During the crisis, President Bush, on his way out of office, was elusive, and although President Obama was more visible, his explanation fell short of what the citizens deserved (Blinder, 2013). For example, the US economy, leading up to the crisis was that of growth and job creation. According to Jarvis (2012) Alan Greenspan, the head of the Federal Reserve governmental agency lowered interest rates which made investors eager to take advantage of (Jarvis, 2013). In other words he created cheap credit and made borrowing money easy which motivated bankers and lenders. The investment bankers in turn used their leverage to control outcomes to make more money by joining banks together with homeowners offering high risk sub-prime loans.
So the million dollar question is, if these government agencies were established to oversee and regulate laws, how were Wall Street investors and bankers able to create the credit crisis in the first place? And even more important, why was no one held accountable for their conduct or their part in creating the crisis? Soros (2008) contends that the crisis was slow in coming and that authorities could have anticipated it several years in advance when the “dot com” industry of the internet exploded in 2000. The Federal Government responded by cutting interest rates. This cheap money helped create a housing explosion because of leveraged buyouts and other excesses. The mind set was that because money was practically free, lenders kept lending until there was no one left to lend to (Soros, 2008). What could have prevented this? Many agree there is no one easy answer. Government agencies are there to help prevent situations like this, but when government officials are also being compensated by big business and are favored by Wall Street, they are more inclined to look the other way and go with the flow, until the situation reaches a tipping point. In other words, until those in places of authority are caught in ethical misconduct, these situations will occur because of issues like greed and power. Until serious reforms are implemented from trusted institutions these events will continue to surface. The first order of business in my view, is to identify the agencies and authorities that have a proven record of trust and ethical behavior including spotless track records. Use those as models to build others. Unfortunately, however, it has been difficult to discern who is trustworthy and truly have the citizen’s best interests at heart.
The US economy has endured financial crises in the past, but the credit crisis was a new beast that spread like wildfire from one market across many others. One thing is certain, that the financial markets and authorities were very slow to recognize that the global economy would be affected. Perhaps there were those that did not care about the consequences because they were too consumed by the wealth and affluence they enjoyed. What this crisis did reveal however, was that greed and excesses were at the root of the credit crisis. The good news is that the value of the American dollar will continue to grow because of the ongoing expansion of raw materials and energy. For example, biofuel legislation is generating a boom in agricultural products. Economic growth and falling interest rates in countries like China that turn negative, are positive signs that is normally associated with economic growth. This gives hope that the winds of change are making progress.
Blinder, A. (2013). After the music stopped: The financial crisis, the response, and the work ahead. New York, NY: The Penguin Press.
Jarvis, J. (2013). The crisis of credit visualized. Pasadena, CA, USA. Retrieved August 11, 2013, from http://vimeo.com/3261363
Seaquist, G. (2012). Business law for managers. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
Soros, G. (2008). The new paradigm for financial markets: The credit crisis of 2008 and what it means. New York, NY: PublicAffairs.