I understand why people feel the need to tout the historical significance of the financial reform package that passed the conference committee. The president needs it politically and those who support him want to give him credit for getting anything at all in the face of the onslaught of bank lobbyists. Lots of folks worked very hard against tremendous odds to get something passed.
But I think a more sober analysis shows that what’s been achieved is pretty modest. It hands over many crucial details to the same regulators who oversaw our financial debacle.
Summing up, Bloomberg reports: “Legislation to overhaul financial regulation will help curb risk-taking and boost capital buffers. What it won’t do is fundamentally reshape Wall Street’s biggest banks or prevent another crisis, analysts said.”
Zach Carter characterizes it as a good first step. The Roosevelt Institute’s Robert Johnson writes: “This first round was not the whole fight. It was the wake-up call and the beginning of the fight. Rest up and get ready. There is so much more to do.”
The question is when we’ll get the chance to take the additional steps that are needed. The public is skeptical that the new rules will prevent another crisis, according to this AP poll. The Big Picture’s Barry Ritholtz grades the various aspects of the reform effort. Overall grade? C-. Top marks go to the new minimum mortgage underwriting standards. But legislators get failing grades for leaving four critical issues on the table: “to big to fail banks,” bank leverage, credit rating agencies and corporate pay.
Ritholtz saves some of his harshest evaluation for the proposal to house the new consumer protection agency inside the Federal Reserve, which he finds “beyond idiotic.”