.
January 13th, 2010
01:42 PM ET

How much were banks to blame for the financial collapse?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Congress is trying to get to the bottom of the financial meltdown that practically brought the country to its knees.

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein testifies during the first public hearing of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission on Capitol Hill.

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein testifies during the first public hearing of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission on Capitol Hill.

There were some tense exchanges on Capitol Hill today... with a bipartisan commission grilling the heads of Wall Street's top banks about who was to blame for the biggest downturn since the Great Depression.

The bank chiefs testified under oath about their institutions' mistakes that led to the crisis... things like the housing bubble, "new and poorly underwritten mortgage products" and "excessive speculation."

These banks bundled mortgages and sold them as investments. But when people began to default on the mortgages because they couldn't afford them in the first place, the bottom fell out.

At one point - Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein compared parts of the financial crisis to an earthquake and similar acts of God. Nice try. The commission's chairman - Democrat Phil Angelides - immediately pointed out: "These were acts of men and women."

The heads of three other big banks - JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America - also testified. They all tried to walk the fine line of owning up to what happened... while pushing back against potential government reforms that they think would go too far.

There's a lot of anger out there directed at Wall Street. Since the start of the downturn, seven million Americans have lost their jobs and more than two million families have lost their homes to foreclosure.

But the banks were given hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer money to keep them afloat, and to this day they continue to pay out record bonuses. And they are making profits like they've never made before.

Here’s my question to you: How much were the banks to blame for the financial collapse?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 5pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.

And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.


Filed under: Bailout • Goldman Sachs • Homeownership • Spending • US Economy • US Government Bailouts
soundoff (77 Responses)
  1. roger

    Congress will bluster and pose for the cameras, and then the baners will make large campaign contributions on the sly, and ultimately nothing will be resolved. Congress is big on grabbing the headlines as long as there is no accountability. All hearings should be open to the public, and all votes should be recorded and published. They like to take stands on popular issues, but few have the cajones to actually go against the popular stand. Even fewer have the ability to be honest or govern effectively

    January 13, 2010 at 4:57 pm |
  2. Redhorse - Austin

    The banks are certainly complicit, but what was the driver? There were two: excessive amounts of cheap money in the system courtesy of the Fed and an artificially large number of sub prime mortgages courtesy of consolidators like Countrywide and Fannie/Freddie forced by Congress to ultimately back them. Banks put the money to work by assembling the alphabet soup of mortgage backed bonds and derivatives, with the credit rating agencies cheering from the sidelines instead of doing their jobs. Blame? Start with Barney Franks, Chris Dodd, Nancy Pelosi who politicized home owning to people that had no business being in those mortgages and then the rating agencies that failed to do their jobs. We will be bailing these people out for generations.

    January 13, 2010 at 4:59 pm |
  3. Travis Bolton

    I think Wall Street and the Banks were 100% at fault for this last recession. I also personally think we should not have bailed them out since you have to ask "what have they done for the people that have helped them out" since that time frame.

    Kansas City

    January 13, 2010 at 5:00 pm |
  4. Charlie in NJ

    About 50/50. You can blame the other 50% on people that should never have purchased assets that either A) they couldn't afford, or B) were purchased to flip for a profit.

    on afterthought, you also have to blame the Feds for keeping rates so low.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:02 pm |
  5. Lynda, Greenville NC

    The banks are just as guilty as we the American people are – we demanded that everyone should be able to be a homeowner and should have cheap credit, the banks abliged by giving citizens loans that they could not pay back. It was against capitalism and common sense to give home loans to people with unstable income and bad credit, and the blame falls on all of us.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:06 pm |
  6. Marion/Birmingham,Al

    Not as much as,the Government committee on oversight,who pushed banks to make loans to people who had no business buying a house. The Community Reinvestment Act under Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton who pushed for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to take bundled loans from the banks and mortgage companies.Then ACORN who kept pressuring banks to make more loans to people who could not pay them back, and some of the people who lied about their income and signed for loans knowing they could not afford them. So it is not all on the banks,when they had Fannie and Freddie to insure their debts.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:06 pm |
  7. Tom Mytoocents Fort Lauderdale, Florida

    Jack
    Misspoke ,misguided ,underestimated, poorly underwritten and excessive speculation are all phrases to describe the truly incompetant. Far from the best and brightest claims of only months past.
    To claim an "Act of God' is nothing short of insanity. Statments like these are on a par with comedian Flip Wilson claims "The Devil Made Me Do It"
    Forty years ago this was considerd humor to most Americans; today not so much. Tragically our ancestors would not be having such a coversation , because accountability and bankruptcy was paramount to bailouts of the self described silver spoon incompetants. Sadly all of this theft occured under the close scruntiny of regulators and the US Congress . Elected officials should sustain all the burdens of accoutability. The Bankers should be divested of their license and driven out of business

    January 13, 2010 at 5:07 pm |
  8. Lance, Ridgecrest, Ca

    Jack, Congress are the ones responsible, they just refuse to take responsibility. The banks, wall street, etc, were doing what free enterprise companies do. Making profits for their stockholders. Congress was warned in 2006/2007 that the economy was in danger from the housing/financial bubble, and they did NOTHING. Reason, they knew the economy would tank, and the Democrats would take the elections. Well, they got it, now they can't fix it fast enough, and they will lose it again, just as fast, after running the deficit to new highs, that will take decades to recover from, if we ever can.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:07 pm |
  9. david doherty

    The banks are %100 to blame. A lot of people will point the finger at greedy home owners, who bought more house than they could afford, but it was the lenders that convinced them that they could afford it. When you deal with Mortgage’s on a daily base's, and your selling your product to the average Joe, it's not hard to convince them that buying or refinancing is the smart thing to do. Without ethical practices, it's like shooting fish in a barrel.
    Dave from Peterborough, NH.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:08 pm |
  10. Rocco Lauderdale lakes

    Jack
    The Banks should give Bonus back to the taxes payers until the
    economy back to normal they are the ones that cause this mess
    I say GREED They were thinking of selfs

    January 13, 2010 at 5:09 pm |
  11. Paul from Phoenix

    Jack,

    Chris Dodd and Barney Frank led the charge to keep the mortgage industry unregulated, against the wishes of both Bush and Clinton. They are the two biggest culprits, Dodd even received a free loan, and today they are writing the banking laws. Both should be in jail.

    Paul from Phoenix

    January 13, 2010 at 5:12 pm |
  12. Darryl From Lake Forest

    No it wasn’t the big banks fault. It was the too big to fall Casino’s on Wall Street.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
  13. Bob T. Southfield, MI

    The banks were nearly 100% to blame but they needed enablers to make the whole mess work. First they needed a repeal of the Glass-Steagall act which occured in 1995 under Clinton's watch. Then they needed a Republican congress and administration who they knew would look the other way and not interfer with the interests of corporate enterprise. They invented a way to write bad loans to unqualified borrowers and lie to the borrowers about the terms of the loan and finally sweep the faulty loans under the carpet with AAA rated derrivatives. They knew exactly what they were doing and the corporate bankers deserve lengthy prison terms not record setting bonuses for their greedy scams.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
  14. Sam on Lake Oroville CA

    The Banks arn't to Blame for it.
    Teddy Rosavelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Bill Clinton
    are to be Blamed.
    If you don't believe Me ask Glen Beck
    he'll splain it to You.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
  15. Donald Wright

    I would imagine large banks are storing oil in their reserve tanks as I write this. After oil skyrockets they will release the oil, pay great big bonuses and start over again. Add this to poor loan practices, large charges for overdrafts which people can not afford in the first place, and basic dishonesty, I think we could be in for another round thanks to the bankers. I suppose they will expect another bailout if things do not work out for them.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:14 pm |
  16. Chuck in Maryland

    Jack,

    They deserve all the blame as well as the Federal Reserve which has given the banks carte blanche to do whatever they want. I mean it is a known fact that the Federal Reserve was started by the founders of the institutions we are attempting to chastise for the economic downturn. It is also obvious that the Federal Reserve is still indirectly controlled by the big banks or we would be a lot further along in the process of implementing regulatory reform. It would also be nice if the Congress and White House had some stones in dealing with the banks but I guess it is difficult to have stones when lobbyists are lining your pockets. At the very least, the banks should at least turn the faucet back on as it relates to credit and loans for small businesses. I guess social responsibility no longer has a place in our once great country.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:15 pm |
  17. BOB WHITE, Kansas

    Banks were enormously responsible for the US and world finacial and economic downturn. Banks a synonomous with greed. And it has been that way for so long that it is deemed 'normal.'
    The government should take each bank failure into federal recievership. Reorganize the failed bank(s) and resell them as small, independent enterprises, i.e. community banks. Banks must not be selling either insurance or equity products.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:16 pm |
  18. Joe

    They might deserve a little more blame than most the rest of us, but one would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't shoulder some of the responsibility. From those who took on more personal debt than they could afford to our leaders who systematically dismantled many of the protections and regulations put in place after the great depression, there are a lot of people who are guilty. The damage has been done, whats important now is to attempt to repair it and prevent it from happening again.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:17 pm |
  19. Don in Grand Rapids , MI

    Banks ? Why don't you put the blame where it belongs, Dodd and Franks who forced the banks to loan $$$$$$$$$$$ to those who couldn't repaly or wouldn't work so they could repay their mortages!

    January 13, 2010 at 5:19 pm |
  20. Dan, Chantilly VA

    I'd put a third of the blame on the banks for what they did, a third on the government for not paying attention, and a third on all the idiots who didn't understand how to live within their means.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:21 pm |
  21. Michael H. of Albuquerque, NM

    Blaming the banks is a tad simplistic. Here's the rest of the story:
    GROSS INCOME of government is now 1/3rd "TAX" income and 2/3rds NON-TAX income derived from: return on INVESTMENTS and money generated from government Enterprise projects.
    Any Company or in fact Country can be "made" or "broken" through the use of those government investment funds. China and India in 2007 restricted new US Government investments, now several trillion dollars strong in China and India so that US Government investments would not further increase control (take-over) in their own markets. China and India learned by seeing what happened to Mexico then Russia when the US Government investment machine came rolling on in.
    If US Government cashed in just 20% of their International investments (held outside of the dollar), in conversion back to the dollar, the dollar would shoot through the roof, with the dollar index jumping from 70 from its low to over 94.
    The #1 Profit makers are:The War Industry; Oil Companies; Pharmaceuticals; Banking; and INTERNATIONAL investments.
    Blame those guys too if you want, but learn about the effect of our international investments by our own government.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
  22. Smag , Munhall , Pa.

    What bank are you talking about Jack ? My kids piggy bank up stairs or my PIGGY BANK downtown??

    January 13, 2010 at 5:23 pm |
  23. Pat - Des Moines Iowa

    Why has our government not started eminent domain proceedings against these banks? The 5th Amendment gives us all the power we need to take over these companies for the public good and based on their lack of patriotism and ethics to the country that allows them to exist, it sounds like a better idea every time I hear it.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:26 pm |
  24. Ed from MD

    As much as the dollar is to blame for bearing the words legal tender. Without the Fed handing money to the banks at almost 0% interest there would be no bubbles to collapse. But its the government who gives the Fed their power and allows them to operate in secret.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
  25. frankie

    Greed ran wild because the country was made to feel that for the government to enforce banking and finance and insurance rules would certainly mean we had become socialists. The wealthy have thrived on this lapse of government oversight, and they never quite got around to trickling anything down.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
  26. Gigi Oregon

    More than they will ever admit. But the people, see them like an open book. As long as government is their best friend there will be no price to pay. Wall street and banks were getting rich and so were our elected officails. It's funny to me that we like to spout God is blessing America, But in fact our corporate and government leaders live as if there is no God. Or "Judgement Day".
    How much were they to blame, Its hard to say since they are all tied together. Corporate, wall street, banks and government.
    Our government with the stroke of a pin could freeze all bonuses, salaries etc. Didn't Pres. Reagan clean house with Air controllers.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:31 pm |
  27. Richard, Syracuse

    The Banks are FULLY to blame. It was Loan Officers who authorized the bad loans knowing they would not be held accountable for them. And despite what the Republicans keep trying to say it was NOT the Community Reinvestment Act that caused the problem, it was the Loan Officers who authorized the bad loans, took their bonus's and bundled the bad loans up and sold them to others.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:32 pm |
  28. Charles

    Jack,

    Blaming the banks misses the point. We were sick and a financial reckoning was coming. Too many of us were living beyond our means, buying houses we couldn't afford, driving cars we couldn't afford and pretending that's how things were meant to be. To blame the banks for our addiction to opulence would be like blaming the drug dealers for the drug problem. There's no market for the dealer if we take responsibility. The banks wouldn't be making untenable loans if there wasn't a market for it. We're all in this together and until we stop trying to find a fall guy and realize the the onus is on all of us to live within our means, we'll be doomed to repeat this mistake over and over.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:32 pm |
  29. BEVERLY-Mystic,Iowa

    Not sure how much, but it couldn't have happened without them. The way I see it, the 2 main reasons for the collapse were banks, & tax cuts for the wealthiest people. Unfortuneately, for a healthy economy, banks are a necessary evil. Robbing (taxing) the poor, to give to the rich is just evil . . . and SO-O-O-O-O VERY REPUBLICAN.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:34 pm |
  30. Denis Duffy

    The banks and our government oversight were to blame for the collapse of our economy. Congress also passed laws and created an environment that allowed this catastrophe to happen. Has any body gone to jail? Has any complicit congressman or senator who took a bribe(campaign contribution) been prosecuted or jailed?
    The only losers are the voting public who continue to allow the crooks, congressman and senators, to stay in office.
    Throw all the banking CEOS in jail, along with congress and maybe this country will wake up.
    In the meantime, be prepared, America, they will do it again.

    Denis
    Pittsburgh, Pa.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:35 pm |
  31. Gary Straub

    They were, along with the "regulators", completely responsible. When Goldman Sachs pays more in bonuses than they made, it appears that they are back to the same old tricks. Why does no one not scream that their money is our money and has always been that way. They have been giving the job of keeping our money safe, as has the government been given the job of protecting us. Neither are doing a very good job of it.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:35 pm |
  32. Evian in Austin

    Banks are absolutely to blame.. they made the bad business decision of "excessive speculation" and they made it with our money.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:36 pm |
  33. Agnes from Scottsdale, AZ

    Jack: Major US banks ride the edge of compliance. They hire academically brillant minds to create voodoo applications to generate huge projit. These are envelope pushing creatures without consciences. Without regulation from the White House, the house of cards will fall again. The major financial institutions know exactly what they did. The banks, as condoned by the Bush administration are totally to blame for the financial collapse.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:37 pm |
  34. ken wallingford ct

    The banks are not at all to blame for the crises! It is congress that is to blame and mostly those associated more closely with this. In this country business will do anything it can to maximize profits. If congress fails to act in certain circumstances, in any way, under the law, the banks will try to make as much money as possible, and they will take advantage of any loop hole there is. Nothing has changed today!! It's the evolution of a man made way and it ultimately, never works. So what's the answer? It's too bad the government doesn't have it. That is why, this is all leading to a one world government and a total collapse, and way of life, as we, as a country, know it.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:37 pm |
  35. Tim C.

    Frankly, this blame is spread between the Wall Street, the Federal Reserve Central Bank and Congress. We all know, starting in the early 1990's, Greenspan artificially lowered key interest rates to stimulate the economy. For over 15 yrs, BILLIONS in low interest credit/dollars flowed into the economy and that money had to go somewhere. In 1999, Bankers spent millions lobbying (buying) Congress to have the 1933 Glass Stegal Act repealled by the Financial Modernization Act (aka Gramm Leach Bliley Act). With the passage of the 1999 Act, Congress tore down the safeguards put up in 1933 to protect the financial community and taxpayers from a financial disaster getting out of hand. Alas, what happened? After all that money from the Federal Reserve Central Bank followed into the markets, it took 10 yrs for the financial markets with no regulation to explode. BLAME CONGRESS AND THE CENTRAL BANK.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:37 pm |
  36. Ken M, Millington MI.

    Hello Jack. I believe that the large banks had a lot to do with it , but they were not the only ones. AIG , Fannie and freddie, Wall street and the Last 2 Presidential administrations ( Clinton & Bush ) for deregulation and Nafta. I also believe that a lot of Americans lived way above their means in a charge it, pay later mentality . That's water under the bridge now the question is what are we going to do to get us back on the right track. Will we hold our elected politicians feet to the fire regardless Democrat or Republican or will we just keep fighting and will they the politicians do whats right for America. I want to have hope that they will and we will as Americans.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:38 pm |
  37. Richard

    They deserve 50% of the blame. Bankers, as a group, are too dumb to manage the corner filling statrion. Some of them actually believe that they create wealth. Instead they are good at mismanaging other peoples money with help from their friends in government, who also supply them with money to lend at lower rates than the public normally sees. Then they actually look for high risk loans to buy low and resell in large tranches whose values that even they don't understand and then have the gall to promote their resale through their subsidiaries at high rates to the same public who put up the money in the first place. Bankers are just smart enough to know that most politicians can be bought and proceed to do so through their lobbyists year after year.

    Bankers should not be trusted to run either brokerage, or insurance companies either.

    They should be evaluated for criminal intent and/or mental competency and encarcerated with their lobbyist friends and government shills that are largely responsible for the other 50% of the problem.

    One would think that we could learn from the depression that started in 1929 and lasted until WWII. Obviously most of us are too dumb to read, or listen, or we think that the results will turn out different with one more try.

    Maple Valley, WA

    January 13, 2010 at 5:41 pm |
  38. t

    Bank are blamed for 50% and the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress are blamed for 50%. Bush/Republicans were given a surplus. Eight years of Bush/Republicans destroyed this economy it would more than one year to get out of this mess. If anyone believes that the Republicans, who destroyed this economy, can do a better job is crazy!!!!!!!!

    January 13, 2010 at 5:41 pm |
  39. ed in ri

    The Wallstreet banks, along with the worlds central banks, in league with world governments are all to blame. This "un-regulated" disaster was allowed to occur by design, to move the money from main street to the top rungs in organized crime.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:45 pm |
  40. JJ

    Very much... especially Goldman Sachs and the Fed. The country has just been looted right in front of our very eyes.

    PS. When is Timmy G. going to be indicted?

    January 13, 2010 at 5:48 pm |
  41. Birddog in Mississippi

    A lot. The real problem, however, is that nobody does a job that is worth 20 or 30 million a year. Nobody. Not when the middle class income is around a hundred thousand with two people employed. It's absurd. If we didn't have such a huge gap in our distribution of wealth in the first place, no sub-prime mortgages would have been necessary. People, in general, would not have to borrow so much & pay bankers so much interest. The gap in the distribution of wealth has not been as large as it is now since right before the great depression - doesn't this tell us something about the underlying causes of depressions?

    January 13, 2010 at 5:51 pm |
  42. Stan in Boston

    We applaud the free enterprise system. It is the quest for profit that will bring us economic well being. The banks were just doing what they are supposed to do – make profits. When a wild animal tamer gets mauled, we don't blame the wild animal – it was just doing what is in its nature to do. Nor can we blame the banks when we leave them unrestricted to do what is in their nature to do. But when it happens again, there will be somebody to blame – the voters – who have already forgotten what got us into the mess and are once again embracing candidates who are calling for "the government to get out of the way" so businesses can create jobs again.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:52 pm |
  43. Raymond Cottengaim

    They were totally to blame. They invented instruments that only they could understand and bet on. their in is the problem they gambled with depositor money as well as investor money to profit only a few. Next time no bail out because they just don't care.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:54 pm |
  44. hank, montreal

    100%

    January 13, 2010 at 5:55 pm |
  45. Luke

    Banks should receive a majority of the blame because they weren't able (or willing) to adequately characterize their assets by the risk those assets posed. They were hiding what they were doing from their "investors" (ie, those that had money in the bank). I don't want my money in an institution that participates in "excessive speculation".

    January 13, 2010 at 5:55 pm |
  46. Bob - Playa Union Argentina

    The banks are too blame BUT , , , , they did all of it WITH THE FILL AID AND KNOWLEDGE OF CONGRESS!!!!

    Thank you Mr Franks and friends!

    And those bonuses?? What kind of business can operate fairly normally for many years, then have one year where they swear they are broke and going bankrupt tomorrow and THEN get a loan and one year later REPAY the loan WITH INTEREST and STILL have enough money to expand, satisfy their stockholders AND pay the biggest bonuses in history??!!!

    Have they EVER heard of a 5-year plan or projection?? And these are all (suposedly) EDUCATED economist!!!! Accounting 101 teaches you better than that in the first semester!! But then maybe they never took the course and if so, maybe didn't pass. They sure failed this test , , , , but then did they?? After all, look at those bonus checks!

    January 13, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
  47. Paulette in Dallas,PA

    Totally and becauseof GREED!

    January 13, 2010 at 5:57 pm |
  48. Bob Louisville

    The banks are to blame to the extent that they took advantage of insufficent government regulation.

    The government is to blame for failing to provide proper regulation.

    The banks are operated for the purpose of making a profit for their investors and will do whatever it takes within the law that they believe will enable them to make the greatest profit.

    Unless more reglations are put into place they will take great risks in the future knowing from past experience if anything goes wrong the government will bail them out.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:57 pm |
  49. BEVERLY-Mystic,Iowa

    VERY MUCH. An Act of God . . . that's a good one. It was such a solemn occasion, Lloyd Blankfein felt the need for some comic relief. Is it true that after the reaction to that line, he went into his stand-up routine, & had 'em rolling in the aisles? (. . ."A funny thing happened on the way to the Hill" . . . )

    January 13, 2010 at 6:00 pm |
  50. Jeremy in Albuquerque

    Hi Jack, there are many to blame for our current financial crisis: those who spent beyond their means and defaulted on their promise to repay their loans are to blame, the politicians who bowed to special interest pressure to remove or reduce oversight of our financial sector are to blame, but the greed and total lack of ethics demonstrated by the employees of these huge banks and lenders easily overshadow the mistakes of the rest. This is a simple explaination, of course, and laying blame does not fix the problem.

    January 13, 2010 at 6:00 pm |
  51. Linda in Arizona

    About 90% of the blame should go to unregulated "investment" banks. Of course, they will lobby and fight to the death to keep any meaningful regulations from being reinstated, while they are busy bundling up some new derivatives, and using their government bailout money for acquisitions instead of loans. They know they will get away with it too, because we have a congress and president who work for Wall Street and the banking industry. There will be more blood, and it will be ours.

    January 13, 2010 at 6:05 pm |
  52. Bob from New York

    Was it not Barney Frank and his ilk that "encouraged" (through arm twisting) the risky loans in the first place? Congress is totally out of control and we have no one to blame but ourselves as we continually re-elect these leaches, most who have never had an honest job in their life. Community organizer is not a JOB!

    January 13, 2010 at 6:05 pm |
  53. Fred

    Jack, how much are crack dealers to blame for the drug epidemic...takes a crack dealer to sell the crack and a person to shoot it up...takes a banker and wall street to push high risk mortgages on people who can't pay and to market securities that represent nothing more than a bet at a casino in Vegas as equivalent to shares of ownership in a company ... and it takes people who wanted to get "high" to purchase both...

    January 13, 2010 at 6:11 pm |
  54. John, Fort Collins, CO

    In my opinion the Wall Street bankers are solely responsible for the financial collapse. They totally ignored their fiduciary responsibilites in their greed for the higher-and-higher quarterly profits necessary to justify their huge salaries and bonuses. Aggressively pushing mortgages and credit card debt on people with insufficient resources to make the payments is criminal.

    January 13, 2010 at 6:12 pm |
  55. Mark Costantino

    I wonder if Barney would be willing to "lead by example" and decrease his salary to $50,000/yr., agree to single-item bills (rather than huge bills), agree to keep politicians who leave office from working for entities who deal with government for ten years (including the government itself). He's a shill.

    January 13, 2010 at 6:12 pm |
  56. frank

    Its 100%. And its not just the financial collapse. That hurt a lot of IRAs. And there are a lot of people who had houses get foreclosed thanks to all their wheeling and dealing. Crooks is not a strong enough term.

    We need a 95% tax on people who make over $10 million a year. Period. No exceptions. Start hitting their salaries they may clean up their act.

    There needs to be jail time. Or publish their addresses and do a lottery on hunting licenses.

    January 13, 2010 at 6:17 pm |
  57. rand california

    When the upper 1% have all the funds and in leu of the announcement of billions in bonuses going out again this year, how can you not blame the financial demise on them? If they new that the american people's tax dollars would not be there the next time they need us, they would think twice, maybe a third time before they hand out those checks.Instead of replenishing the money in there employee wallets how about "foregiving" those people hit the hardest by the down turn of the economy caused by them and their non payable loans(catch 22 loans) they so proudly advertised. They should feel lucky they haven't been successfully sued.They should absolutely be ashamed of themselves as they know how wrong it is to make a buck at the expense of nations poor and BANKrupt. Ignorance to the very people who have supported them for years, should not go far. I urge people to lose the "crutch" of the credit card and regain the pride of using cash. Banks will continue to have an endless amount of money with the "Bank of Uncle Sam" backing them. As sad as that seems this country cannot afford for our banks to go bankrupt.

    January 13, 2010 at 6:17 pm |
  58. joe m

    America's financial collapse is the result of the actions of several groups. The banks are without a doubt are one of the responsible parties. They took advantage of the infrastructure; burdening it to the point of instability. However, these law makers holding these hearing are equally culpable. If the banks abused the financial mechanisms, these politicians failed to effectively manage the policies that would have helped maintain important safeguards. If some bank executives acted greedily, some politicians behaved incompetenly. And there is of course those Americans who behaved foolishly and allowed both the banks and the politicians to manipulate them. There were enough individuals who helped cause this collapse with their own financial irresponsibility. If America wants to assign blame sure let's look at the actions of the banks. However, we also need to put to task our politicians. and hard as it may be, accept part of the responsibilty as well.

    January 13, 2010 at 6:18 pm |
  59. Vivien from NY

    Hey Jack wasn't just the banks – we can thank the Republican Party and Libertarian ideology ! This is the result of no government control. and DE regulation. No one stood up under Bush adminstration to stop the train wreck.

    January 13, 2010 at 6:20 pm |
  60. Loren, Chicago

    Anyone who knows anything about the financial crisis knows that it was a combination of the banks, investment houses and Congress that caused the mess. The banks and investment houses for creating investment products that weren't tied to the underlying collateral, and for lending subprime and in excess a prudent valuation of collateral. Congress gets a lot of the blame for gutting the regulatory framework and forcing lenders to lend on properties and to borrowers who did not have adequate collateral or financial history to support the loans.

    As to the bonuses, they aren't being made to every employee, but only to employees in the areas where there were so-called profits (mostly in the trading area where they sold the CMOs). As to profits, those come from the loans that they kept and the extremely low rates that they're paying out on deposit accounts.

    Bottom line, blame Congress for being snookered by the Presidents Obama and Bush and their financial advisors.

    January 13, 2010 at 6:20 pm |
  61. Scott Stodden

    I blame Wall Street, big bank investor's, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condolezza Rice, Tom Delay, and all the others who were involved in the Bush administration for the financial collapse that almost put us into a Depression. Who else could go into office with a billion dollar or maybe even trillion dollar surplus (Jack you can correct me if Im wrong) and leave with a massive trillion dollar deficit and just not give a damn that would be you the Republicans and right wingers and fear mongers (Sarah Palin, John McCain, John Bohener) oh yeah the list goes on. We never had these problems like this in the United States that we're seeing in these days and I think that President Obama should be commended and appllauded for standing up to big banks who took the country under, and trying to make this country a better place like we once had before George W Bush and all the rest of the who's ha's that worked in that corrupt administration. Thank you Mr Obama for trying everyday to make this place a better world

    January 13, 2010 at 6:23 pm |
  62. Ken from Maryland

    I'd say about 90%. They wanted to run unregulated and the Bush administration complied (they're the other 10%). Now we see what unregulated greed gets us.

    January 13, 2010 at 6:23 pm |
  63. Susan - CA

    Jack,

    Banks are the legal loan sharks......they are as guilty as any financial criminal on earth...except that they take our money to hire top legal councils to write something to leverage their sin....

    Susan
    Corona, CA

    January 13, 2010 at 6:23 pm |
  64. Benjamin

    70% blame to the banks, 20% to the government for lack of regulations,and 10% to those buying houses they couldn't afford.

    January 13, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
  65. David in Raleigh, NC

    The banking bubble started during President Clinton's term when the Democrats pressured the banks to start loaning money to people with questionable credit creating the housing bubble.

    Barney Frank and Chris Dodd are more guilty than the bankers in the housing bubble and the banking collapse.

    January 13, 2010 at 6:27 pm |
  66. David in Raleigh, NC

    As long as liberals insist that loans be made to anyone with a pulse regardless of their ability to pay back the loan, we are going to have a banking crisis in this country.

    Now that the banks are being careful in how they loan money, Obama and the other Democrats are criticizing the banks for not making enough loans to people.

    January 13, 2010 at 6:28 pm |
  67. Antonio from Washington D.C.

    Good question! Ask Goldman Sachs!

    January 13, 2010 at 6:28 pm |
  68. Joe CE

    They were most reponsible especially the oes connect to investment brokers.

    January 13, 2010 at 6:28 pm |
  69. Will from San Jose, CA

    Overleverage is the problem, just as it was in the late 1920's. The banks took consumer loans and wrapped them up into packages manufacturing perceived value far beyond the actual holdings of the banks. For ever dollar of bad debt that the public generated the banks turned it into $30-$100.

    We could have bought every failing home mortgage for a small fraction of the cost of the bank bailouts. They took a medium sized problem and turned it into an economic disaster.

    As long as banks can find ways to get into unrestricted leveraged positions this cycle will continue.

    January 13, 2010 at 6:30 pm |
  70. Eugene, Myers Flat, CA

    Hey Jack,
    I'd say Wall Street 33%, Federal Regulators 33% and Congress 33% are equally responsible for the failure. Funny how no charges were brought against anyone, after trillions of dollars evaporated.
    Barney Frank is the worst offender in our greedy, pandering Congress.

    January 13, 2010 at 6:32 pm |
  71. Andrew

    This is the wrong question, because it is too simplistic. Economics is an appallingly complicated concept, and much of it is theoretical at higher levels. Too often, doing what appears to be sensible or 'moral' is disastrous in application. Even our ancient bible requires such economically foolish ideas as debt forgiveness and no charge of interest. We as humans lack the mass intelligence, education, and patience to make quality long term economic policy, so we elect grandstanding politicians and ask dumb questions like 'should we blame the bankers.'

    January 13, 2010 at 6:33 pm |
  72. Dennis North Carolina

    completely

    January 13, 2010 at 6:37 pm |
  73. bob, oshawa, ontario

    Jack, they are mostly to blame for making reckless investments but what made it easy for them was the lack of effective regulations that could have prohibited these ventures in the first place or at least mitigated their far reaching damage. Those who were part of the deregulation process are also culpable. The forces of the free market system don't work effectively when "too big to fail" businesses operate as oligarchies. You can't blame this on the bossa nova.

    January 13, 2010 at 6:40 pm |
  74. Ralph Spyer chicago Il

    What about the people who took out the loans that they could not afford or their attorney who was there at the closing of the contract. Then we have the two Realtors the buyer and the sellers they all were in on the action. Then the Government said all Americans should have a home it did not mater if you had a job or not.In Chicago it is against the law to live in a home without a the city inspectors giving you a certificate of occupancy but it O.K. to sell a home without a certificate of occupancy .

    January 13, 2010 at 6:43 pm |
  75. David

    Jack,

    Not only are they majorly responsible, but aided by lack of constraint, kicked and stomped us when we were down.

    We need strong and immediate regulation and restrictions to prevent continuation and repetition.

    David in GA

    January 13, 2010 at 6:44 pm |
  76. EugeneWiese

    it depends on what the definition of a bank is,since Reagan deregulated the banks and allowed financial cos. to act like banks. then,is when the trouble began and now the so called banks do anything the want in gambling with your money,Yes,banks are responsible for the financial meltdown. Gene

    January 13, 2010 at 6:46 pm |
  77. Jeff in E. Lyme, CT

    It's not really fair to blame banks alone, or even blatantly corrupt legislators. The real problem is our tolerance of corruption and lack of ethics. We persist in electing representatives who fight tooth & nail against regulating things that can & will do damage to our society & our Nation. We need to update & expand our laws regarding Treason. Guns kill children & others, Big Banking robs us, Big Tobacco knowingly & premeditatedly murders 435 thousand Americans each year, Bush & Co. lied us into a war to enrich their buddies. We need to apply & enforce the death penalty when ANYBODY harms America.

    January 13, 2010 at 6:47 pm |