The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission began its public hearings in earnest this month, hauling the top bank CEOs before its esteemed members. The hearing drew a lot of media and public attention and happened to coincide with bonus season on Wall Street, announcement of record profits, as well as a proposal by President Obama to tax the largest 50 banks and other firms for their role in the economic crisis that almost brought our country to its knees.
The best thing that can be said about this Commission is that it will do better than a Congressional Committee could do. Congressional oversight, or investigation, is an oxy-moron. The Commission has good people who will do a respectable job, but no one will care. The 9-11 Commission did a great job, too, and nobody cared then, either. As long as nobody will care, nor act on the report, it would be far better to save the money.
The public will continue have its own notions about the causes of the melt-down. It has had almost as much fun bellyaching about Wall Street bonuses as it normally gets from bellyaching about Congressional salaries. Congress will write new regulatory law before the Commission makes its report. It will, regularly and relentlessly, beat up whatever interests it does not like, and accuse the villain-of-the-moment of being the 100% cause of all our woes.
There were a lot of things going on in the economy, and the culpability is deeply and widely spread. Almost all of us, certainly including the Congress, can share a little blame. My own judgment is that this investigation is a fruitless exercise. We ought to leave history writing to the academics. The Congress and the nation should concentrate on the recovery.