Posts Tagged ‘Financial reform’

The trouble with us liberals

August 11, 2010

Robert Gibbs

Evidently we liberals are like a bunch of whining little children.  No matter how much President Obama does for us, we’re never satisfied.  That’s what I hear from pundits on TV and what I read in off-the-record comments by White House staffers, and now on the record as well.

During an interview with The Hill in his West Wing office, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs blasted liberal naysayers, whom he said would never regard anything the president did as good enough.

“I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested,” Gibbs said. “I mean, it’s crazy.”

The press secretary dismissed the “professional left” in terms very similar to those used by their opponents on the ideological right, saying, “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian health care and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.”

Of those who complain that Obama caved to centrists on issues such as health care reform, Gibbs said: “They wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.”


Let’s stipulate, for the sake of argument, that we liberals are a bad lot, and that I myself am the worst of the bunch, and that it is a waste of time to consider what people like me think.  This doesn’t really matter.

What matters is whether President Obama’s program is enough to make a difference to Americans who are out of work, worried about their savings or unable to pay medical bills.  Was the stimulus bill enough to jump-start the economy?  Will the financial reform bill avert another financial meltdown?  Will the health reform bill actually make medical care more affordable and available?

The answers to these questions, as it seems to me, are (1) clearly not, (2) clearly not and (3) it’s hard to tell.  I could be wrong, and, for the sake of my fellow Americans, I hope I am wrong.  In a few years the facts will show, one way or another, who was right.


Different tree, same monkeys

July 16, 2010

The new financial reform bill follows the pattern of the health reform bill.  Instead of changing the system is a straightforward way, Congress chose to create a new level of regulatory complexity which may or may not do good.

The main obstacle to progress is the Senate’s rule that 41 Senators can block a vote on any measure, and the Republican leadership’s willingness to use that rule to block the will of the majority.  A secondary obstacle is the Obama administration’s unwillingness to press for meaningful change.

The Senate rejected an amendment offered by Senators Ted Kaufman of Delaware and Sherrod Brown of Ohio to break up the six “too big to fail” banks so that they could no longer hold the economy hostage. But the bill does contain a provision allowing federal regulators to break up the banks if they pose a “grave risk” to the financial system.

The bill supposedly contains a version of the Volcker Rule, which limits the ability of banks to use taxpayer-guaranteed deposits to speculate in risky investments.  But according to Senator Kaufman the bill’s many exemptions and exceptions make this rule meaningless.

Instead of limiting the size of banks and the power of banks to gamble with taxpayer-insured money, the bill creates new regulatory agencies with new powers.  It trusts the regulators to be independent of the bankers and smarter than the bankers, and at the same time to refrain from using their power capriciously or arbitrarily.  Past history gives little reason for that trust.

The rule of law is almost always preferable to arbitrary regulatory power.  With a simple clear law such as the Kaufman-Brown amendment or a no-loophole Volcker Rule, both banks and the public would know where they stood and be able to plan accordingly.