Alan Greenspan railed against entitlement programs like Social Security, and described the Dodd-Frank Act as the “worst legislation since Nixon’s wage and price controls of the 1960s.” In a speech before the Economic Club of New York on Thursday, where he accepted club’s Award for Leadership Excellence, the former Federal Reserve chairman said we “could do away with all financial regulation—almost all of it—if we did one thing, and that is raise the capital requirements of banks.”
Greenspan, 91, said that this capital raise could well result in less lending by the banks, but that those not getting loans would be “loans we shouldn’t be making in the first place.” In his speech entitled “Productivity and Economic Growth,” he noted that higher capital would make “contagious defaults like 2008 and 1929 almost impossible,” and that if there were defaults by banks and financial institutions then we should “make shareholders take the loss, not American taxpayers.”
Saying the “we are at a crossroads,” when it came to entitlements which are “acceleratingly difficult” to fix, Greenspan made the case that “stagnation may finally be ebbing,” but that we didn’t know yet if we are “getting stagflation” [stagnation plus inflation], which he noted was “rare.” This lack of growth he said was caused by a decrease in productivity gains. If we didn’t address entitlements, Greenspan said, we will face a period of high inflation.
Greenspan also argued that entitlement programs were “driving out” investment that would increase productivity gains which produces economic growth. He explained his theories in a series of complex charts that he acknowledged were tough to follow. “Go get a bite to eat if you aren’t into this kind of thing,” he said before putting the charts up.
He didn’t comment on politics much, except to note the rise of populism, which he described as a “cry of pain.” He said Europe has having an “unsustainable set of financial affairs.”
Andy Serwer is Editor-in-Chief of Yahoo Finance.