Private money wasn’t available for good reason. This is the mother of all subprime loans.

Robert Samuelson reminds us of a stunning fact:

As is well known, the crisis began with losses in the $1.3 trillion market for “subprime” mortgages, many of which were “securitized” — bundled into bonds and sold to investors.

He is actually minimizing the figure to make some other point, but the idea that so much money was lent into what was once, quite properly, a marginal business is, for me, all you need to know about level of regulatory breakdown that brought us to this.

Also recommended:

Gretchen Morgenson calling for disclosure of what taxpayers are actually buying:

Now, inquiring minds want to know, whom did we rescue? Which large, wealthy financial institutions — counterparties to A.I.G.’s derivatives contracts — benefited from the taxpayers’ $85 billion loan? Were their representatives involved in the talks that resulted in the last-minute loan?

And did Lehman Brothers not get bailed out because those favored institutions were not on the hook if it failed?

We’ll probably never know the answers to these troubling questions. But by keeping taxpayers in the dark, regulators continue to earn our mistrust. As long as we are not told whom we have bailed out, we will be justified in suspecting that a favored few are making gains on our dimes.


And Kevin Phillips talking to Bill Moyers about how the financial sector, instead of financing the economy, came to dominate it.

KEVIN PHILLIPS: But what’s here that doesn’t get the attention is the United States in the last 20 years undertook an enormous transformation of itself with no attention paid. And what it means is and what makes all this so frightening is the country is at risk because of the size of the financial sector that has never been graded on its competence and behavior in any serious way. They are the economy at this point. And we are now seeing what happens when a 20 to 21 percent of GDP financial sector starts to come unglued.


BILL MOYERS: But there are people, Kevin, who disagree with us, who say that this financial industry has created great wealth for America in the last 25 years.

KEVIN PHILLIPS: Oh, it’s created great wealth for a small slice of America. But if you go back and we remember the manufacturing heyday, the auto workers in Michigan had fishing cabins up on the lake. And the middle class had been fattened by the rise of the blue-collar middle class. Well, there’s no rising blue-collar middle class now. The middle class is shrinking.

The pie in a financial economy goes to the one or two percent — or even less- that have capital skills and education. We have never had so much polarization and wealth disparity and just groaning wealth right at the top of ladder as we have now under finance.


You had essentially a financial sector that, let’s say, was sort of neck and neck with manufacturing back in the late 1980s. But they got control in a lot of ways in the agenda. Finance has been bailed out. I mean, everybody thinks this is horrible now what we’re seeing in terms of bailouts. Even a lot of the people who do it think it’s bad.

This has been going on since the beginning of the 1980s. Finance has been preferred as the sector that got government support. Manufacturing slides, nobody helps.

Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014).

Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.