In a day of important talking, Warren Buffett trumps President Obama.
The president is traveling to Pittsburgh to give an update on the state of the economy. Last year, he promised to work to rebuild the economy on a “solid foundation.” Yet it’s an economy amazingly like George W. Bush’s, except for the lack of a housing bubble and the illusion of growth. Oh, and millions of unemployed and underemployed people. To be fair to the president, events are increasingly out of his control. But we might have more confidence if his chief economic advisers were not members of the Wall Street elite.
The more interesting words might come from Buffett as he testifies before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission on the rating agencies and the financial crisis. He owns a sizable piece of Moody’s but, according to WSJ Deal Journal, he’s been reducing his stake in recent quarters. In live blogging, Buffett is continuing to say that the ratings agencies were among the many who missed the bubble (hmmm). Still hoping for some of the vinegary honesty of which the Oracle of Omaha is capable. This was the man who called derivatives “financial weapons of mass destruction” in 2003. Apparently the memo didn’t get to Moody’s.
The reality is the credit agencies, to enhance their profitable relationships with investment banks and other playerz, failed in their ostensible role as impartial raters of risk. Like the regulators, they were far too cozy with the old order and its swindles. When average financial journalists understood the problems the economy faced in 2005-2006, it didn’t take high-paid genius at Moody’s to figure it out, or at least voice it. More than investors paid the price.
As commission chairman Phil Angelides said, “You don’t want your police trading in crack.” If the ratings agencies aren’t trustworthy, the marketplace isn’t healthy.
Today’s Econ Haiku:
Zipcar wants to drive
A demolition derby
Also called Wall Street