Thomas Huertas (“Bank holdings of sovereign debt need scrutiny,” September 7) makes very reasonable proposals of how to control the “doom loop” of government debt making the banking system more risky, while the banks make the government’s finances more risky. But the sensible reforms he recommends won’t happen and can’t happen. This is for a simple and powerful reason: the financial regulators who would have to take the actions are employees of the government which wants to expand its debt. A top priority of all governments is to be able to increase their debt as needed. The regulators will not act against this fundamental interest of their employer.
An egregious example of this problem in the U.S. context is that as the bubble inflated the banking regulators did, and still do, allow the banks to hold unlimited amounts of the debt of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-backed mortgage firms, long since failed and in conservatorship. Moreover, the regulators allowed (and indeed promoted, through low risk-based capital requirements) banks to own and finance with deposits the preferred equity of Fannie and Freddie. These were distinctly bad ideas. But what were the poor regulators to do? Their employer, the US government, wanted to expand housing debt and leverage through Fannie and Freddie, and they went along.