Some sensible advice from Forbes

All three are good points, but there are a couple of caveats..

Forbes: Obama Repeating Bush Mistakes

U.S. President Barack Obama is repeating George W. Bush’s worst market mistakes, Forbes Inc Chief Executive Steve Forbes wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

“The most disastrous Bush policy that Mr. Obama is perpetuating is mark-to-market or ‘fair value’ accounting for banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions,” Forbes wrote in an opinion column.

Under mark-to-market — the revaluation of assets to their current market value — even non-suspect assets are being artificially knocked down in value, Forbes wrote.

“Banks and life insurance companies that have positive cash flows now find themselves in a death spiral,” Forbes wrote.

Forbes said that of the more than $700 billion that financial institutions had written off, almost all of it had been book writedowns, not actual cash losses.

“Another horrific Bush policy that Mr. Obama has left untouched concerns short selling,” Forbes wrote.

Forbes said the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s removal in 2007 of the so-called uptick rule, which held that investors could not short a stock unless it went up in price, was responsible for an explosion in market volatility.

Obama should suspend mark-to-market accounting rules, restore the uptick rule, and enforce the prohibition against naked short-selling, Forbes wrote.


Our comment:

  • We’ve discussed mark-to-market earlier, and acknowledge it’s potentially destructive side. However, it’s not clear how to value these assets alternatively. Purchasing price? Some depreciation formula?
  • Reinstalling the uptick rule might not be the magic bullet, program trading can probably get around that, we’ve also argued that before. But some sand in the wheels of illegal shorting is better than none..
  • We wholeheartedly support enforcement of prohibition of naked shorting. No questions there.