Thursday, October 9, 2008

How the farm bill caused the economic crisis.

The origins of the financial crisis isn't as simple as black and white.  Many people believe that the numbers of foreclosures and poor payment history are the reason.  Many believe in was derivatives and credit default swaps.  In 1936 there was a act of Congress called the Commodity Exchange Act in which all commodities and activities and requires all futures and commodity options to be traded on organized exchanges.  In the act prohibits fraudulent conduct in the trading of futures contracts. In 1974, Congress amended the Act to create a more comprehensive regulatory framework for the trading of futures contracts and created the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, replacing the Commodity Exchange Authority CFTC.  Today, the CFTC assures the economic utility of the futures markets by encouraging their competitiveness and efficiency, ensuring their integrity, protecting market participants against manipulation, abusive trading practices, and fraud, and ensuring the financial integrity of the clearing process. Through effective oversight, the CFTC enables the futures markets to serve the important function of providing a means for price discovery and offsetting price risk. The Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 has been cited as a public policy decision significantly contributing to Enron's bankruptcy in 2001 and the much broader liquidity crisis of September 2008 that led to the failure of Lehman Brothers and American International Group and to the creation of the U.S. Emergency Economic Stabilization fund.  The bill was signed by President Bill Clinton on December 21, 2000.  The then president was considered a lame duck since he had left office one month later.  The act repealed the Shad-Johnson jurisdictional accord, which had banned single stock futures in 1982. The legislation also provided certainty that products offered by banking institutions would not be regulated as futures contracts.  The Shad-Johnson Jurisdictional Accord is an agreement reached between the Chairmen of SEC and CFTC in 1981 to resolve a dispute concerning jurisdiction over securities-based derivatives.   In September 2007, Senator Carl Levin introduced Senate Bill S.2058 to specifically close the "Enron Loophole".  This bill was later attached to H.R. 6124, the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, aka "The 2008 Farm Bill". President Bush vetoed the bill, but was overridden by both the House and Senate, and on June 18th, 2008 the bill was enacted into law. One specific reason behind its introduction was to address the record high oil prices of the 2000s energy crisis. Since it was enacted, average gas prices of regular unleaded gasoline in the U.S. have dropped $0.357, from their record high of $4.114 on July 17, 2008 to an average of $3.757 as of September 21, 2008.  The value of the Dow Jones Industrial average has dropped nearly 2,500 points during the same time also.  Many economists and politicians wanted to stop its proposed regulation of energy futures trading, a market that was famously abused when Enron Corp. manipulated California’s electricity prices in 2001.  The current crisis that we find ourselves in can be attributed to the executive and the congress and the lack of a reasonable time frame for the law to become effective.

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