Friday, May 21, 2010


Our elected betters finally deigned it important enough to get off their asses and cobble together some shambling document that they could all claim was financial "reform". The vote was 59-39 in favor as was notable for a few Democrats with principles jumping to vote against and a few Republicans without principles jumping to vote for. Then bank stocks rose after the bill passed. Not great signs. While tackling a broad cross section of issues and new forms of regulation the Senate bill didn't seem to think it was important to address "too big to fail".

Yeah. They probably should have done that. Not like it was too recent a problem or anything.

As I know little about what constitutes smart policy vs. glaring horrific oversights in this bill, as well as what crafty loopholes our betters put in to keep Wall Street able to shove its blood funnel into America's money orifice, I turn over the pros and cons to America's foremost bearded economist: Paul Krugman.
What’s good? Resolution authority, which was sorely lacking last year; consumer protection; derivatives traded through clearinghouses; ratings reform, thanks to Al Franken; tighter capital standards for big players, although with too much discretion to regulators.

What’s missing? Hard leverage limits; size caps; not much in the way of restoring Glass-Steagall. If you think that too big to fail is the core problem, it’s disappointing; if you think that shadow banking is the core, as I do, not too bad.

Now, the truth is that we won’t know how good a reform this is until the next crisis (which is very different from health care, where there will be ample opportunities to learn from experience.) And the new system clearly won’t be robust to really bad leadership: once President Palin appoints Ron Paul as Treasury Secretary, all bets are off.

But I still think this counts as a qualified win.
Ahh, way to slap a silver lining on my grey cloud. Bastard. Edmund Andrews also paints a nice coat of happy on things as well. If you wish to further understand what just happened, the NYT has a nice little graphic up about what's happening, the differences between the House and Senate bills, and good ideas that were shouted down.

So what next? The House and Senate hammer out the differences in their version. Which is to say the Senate goes "Hey, it's a complete shitshow over here. You have to take our version and pass it." like they do on every bill.

Luckily, macho gamesmanship and threats of "You don't have the balls to do it!" "Yeah?" "Yeah!" "Fuck it! We're doin' it then!" has led to the negotiations being televised. So we have that entertainment to look forward to. Great financial reform legislation? Not so much. But it isn't as bad as it could have been. That counts as a tremendous win in today's American political arena.

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