Several opposition parties in Parliament have been pressing for amendments to the country’s foreclosure laws, including letting mortgage defaulters settle their debts with the bank by turning over the property. But the government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has opposed such a major change in lending practices. Government officials say Spain’s system of personal guarantees saved its banks from the turmoil seen in the United States.
So like the US, where Obama has refused to impose a foreclosure moratorium, despite massive fraud, in order to shore up the banking system. After all, we need these banks to remain sound and solvent if we are to emerge from the financial crisis, right?
Just one thing, though: aren’t the banks private, profit-making businesses? What is the implication for the rational allocation of resources, not to mention social justice, of ginning the rules so that one industry can enjoy greater profits at the expense of everyone else? And we’re not talking about struggling startups here: financial profits have simply metastasized in the 00s, driving income inequality and rewarding the very activities that put modern economies at extreme risk.
If banks truly are public utilities, providing an indispensable service that requires frequent infusions of public support—subsidies, bailouts, favorable regulatory dispensations—they should be publicly owned. No risk, no profit.