As the House Financial Services Committee begins markup on Wednesday of key financial reform legislation, the stakes are clear. Without strong regulation of the banks and the shadow banking system, large banks will feel free to gamble with the assumption that taxpayers will cover their losses. This is a recipe for another financial debacle.
Yet, even as the committee begins its work, the banking lobby has worked the backrooms to weaken the reforms proposed by the administration.
The central administration proposal—the creation of a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency to protect consumers from financial frauds and rip-offs—has already been critically compromised. No longer are financial institutions required to offer consumers simple and plain basic mortgages and other loans. The enforcement of the Community Reinvestment Act has been stripped from the CFPA. And even worse, the oversight authority of the new agency is placed in a council of the very same regulators that failed consumers completely in the run-up to the financial collapse. Rewarding their failure is simply indefensible.
The committee also seems intent on weakening rather than strengthening the current inadequate laws relating to derivatives, the exotic financial instruments that Warren Buffett termed “weapons of financial mass destruction.” This is simply abandoning the public interest to serve the private interests of the banks.
When Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin declared that the “banks own the place,” he clearly wasn’t kidding. But legislators should beware. The banking lobby got its way when few were looking and even fewer could understand the arcane battles over deregulation. Those days are gone. Americans have lost literally trillions of dollars in savings and assets due the irresponsibility of a financial industry that turned itself into a casino, taking bets without even the prudence that a Las Vegas bookie exercises. Then they demanded hundreds of billions of taxpayers’ dollars to bail them out or they would bring down the entire global economy.
Americans are livid and paying attention. Voters will hold accountable legislators who undermine the reforms we need in order to serve their Wall Street contributors.
The Campaign for America’s Future will join with dozens of other organizations to insure that the backroom deals are brought into the light of day. Those standing in the way of reform will discover voters are not likely to forgive or forget.