Do you believe in miracles? Well, brace yourself. We may have another one coming down the pike. Financial reform bills have been passed by both the House and the Senate. Lawmakers are currently working on the final version. We just might see the most sweeping financial reform since the Great Depression within our lifetime. Considering the aggressive and well-funded lobbying by banks, financial institutions,large corporations, and highly placed politicians, this would truly be a miracle.
Why didn't we have financial reform before this, you may wonder? Because... "The markets can regulate themselves." Well, at least that is what we believed back in the Bronze Age (20th century.)
In our post financial crisis world, the big question of "to regulate or not to regulate" has been definitively answered. Former libertarians like myself recognize that the markets don't (and can't) regulate themselves. The "markets" include groups of money-lusting individuals completely incapable of controlling those desires. To be sure there are lots of good folks out there in business and finance. But the money-lusters interfere with the freedom of the rest of us. They seem incapable of seeing the bigger picture. These folks focus on how much they can get for themselves at the expense of everyone else. Sort of like Pavlov's dogs--ring the bell and the dogs are off and running to find food.
Therefore it has become unmistakably clear in the last 21 months since investment banking as we once knew it died, that the markets need genuine supervision.
The newfinancial reforms currently debated will affect all of us who live in the U.S. So it's worth it to take a look at what we are bargaining for.
The Senate Plan outlines the following:
1. Establish a new council of "systemic risk regulators."
The main goals of this council are to stop companies from getting too-big-to-fail, preventing another collapse, bursting economic bubbles before they get too dangerous, and managing systemic risk. A tall order perhaps and one that sounds almost fantastical. How this agency hopes to achieve this lofty goal is still being hammered out.
2. Establish a new consumer protection agency within the Federal Reserve.
Been there, done that. Didn't work the first time to protect consumers. In fact, the Fed failed pretty miserably. This agency should be independent of the Fed, the Treasury and all the Old Boys who are afraid some smart woman (Warren, Bair) will run away with their pots of gold.
3. Give more power to the Federal Reserve to supervise risk activities of the largest financial institutions.
Could Alan Greenspan have had MORE power? He spoke and the whole WORLD listened. The man moved markets by breathing! So let's remember how that worked out for us. Memories may be beautiful and then...just too painful to remember the way we were. This provision has to go. We may be dumb, but we are not stupid! Hopefully.
4. Increase government authority "in extreme cases to seize and liquidate a failing financial company in a way that protects taxpayers from future bailouts."
Isn't the FDIC already doing this and doing it better than anyone else? Didn't the other "government" agencies blow their big opportunity with unconditional and unlimited bailouts of AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo? Seems to me when they gave away the store without securing consumer lending and employee compensation, they failed in this mighty task. Let me ask you a question. If you screw up at work do you expect to be ? a) reprimanded b) fired. c) promoted.