On the outside chance that Jim doesn't get the SEC Chairman spot under Obama, I think we need to create a new federal organization that would help to deal with some of the many problems Jim's pointed to with the Christopher Cox-led SEC.
There's a lot of chatter about the need for new regulation, so here's an idea: We need a Financial Intelligence Agency, just like the CIA, only we're spying on the financial system. We get together a bunch of reasonably clever analysts – I'm sure there will be plenty available with all the lay-offs on Wall Street – and give them one job, to predict the next crisis.
One of the problems with our current credit crisis-slash-recession is that nobody in the government saw it coming, or if they did, they kept their mouth's shut. Now we find out from the National Bureau of Economic Research that Ben Bernanke was still worrying about inflation when the recession started in December of 2007? That just can't fly. At the very least if we have some people writing reports about what could potentially go wrong, there will be more accountability for the people at the top.
If the Fed, and the SEC, and lord knows how many other organizations failed to see the current crisis coming, then I have no confidence in their future ability to predict anything. They're too compromised because they have other responsibilities and agendas. Even if Ben Bernanke had understood how bad things were, he would've had a difficult time saying so in public because in his position as Fed chairman, he would want to avoid causing a panic. That's why I think a Financial Intelligence Agency with no regulatory power or enforcement power, just a sort of roving commission, could fill this gap. I wonder who could head such an organization...
With or without Jim, it would be a good idea to have a bunch of analysts basically spying on Wall Street, writing reports and sending them to the people who make decisions. Brokers already have to keep tapes of their phone conversations and records of their instant messages. So we might as well make use of that data, although obviously there are some concerns about privacy. At this point, I think we should be more concerned about not letting our financial system destroy itself again. Talk about full disclosure...
Cliff Mason is the Senior Writer of CNBC's Mad Money w/Jim Cramer, and has been that program's primary writer, in cooperation with and under the supervision of Jim Cramer, since he began at CNBC as an intern during the summer of 2005. Mason was the author of a column at TheStreet.com during 2007, which he describes as "hilarious, if short-lived." He graduated from Harvard College in 2007. It was at Harvard that Mason learned to multi-task, mastering the art of seeming to pay attention to professors while writing scripts for Mad Money. Mason has co-written two books with Jim Cramer: Jim Cramer's Mad Money: Watch TV, Get Richand Stay Mad For Life: Get Rich, Stay Rich (Make Your Kids Even Richer). He is 100% responsible for any parts of either book that you did not like.
Mason has also had a fruitful relationship with Jim Cramer as his nephew for the last 23 years and will hopefully continue to hold that position for many more as long as he doesn't do anything to get himself kicked out of the family.
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