Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Dodd-Frank DOA

Matt Taibbi's depressing piece about the virtual gutting of the useful and important reforms in Dodd-Frank is almost a year old, but I doubt anything has gotten better.

Dodd-Frank, in case you had forgotten (or had never heard of it), was meant to prevent another financial services-led meltdown of the economy by reining in the industry's least-regulated and riskiest practices.

At 2,300 pages, the new law ostensibly rewrote the rules for Wall Street. It was going to put an end to predatory lending in the mortgage markets, crack down on hidden fees and penalties in credit contracts, and create a powerful new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to safeguard ordinary consumers. Big banks would be banned from gambling with taxpayer money, and a new set of rules would limit speculators from making the kind of crazy-ass bets that cause wild spikes in the price of food and energy. There would be no more AIGs, and the world would never again face a financial apocalypse when a bank like Lehman Brothers went bankrupt.

Most importantly, even if any of that fiendish crap ever did happen again, Dodd-Frank guaranteed we wouldn't be expected to pay for it. "The American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street's mistakes," Obama promised. "There will be no more taxpayer-funded bailouts. Period."

What was the state of Dodd-Frank in 2012?
Two years later, Dodd-Frank is groaning on its deathbed. The giant reform bill turned out to be like the fish reeled in by Hemingway's Old Man – no sooner caught than set upon by sharks that strip it to nothing long before it ever reaches the shore.
It would be good medicine to read the entire piece, if only to understand just how fucked we average folks are when it comes to facing down Wall Street, but if you understandably can't stomach the idea of absorbing all the gory details when you already know there isn't a happy ending, here's Taibbi's takeaway:
You can't buy votes in a democracy, at least not directly, but our democracy is run through a bureaucracy. Human beings can cast a vote, or rally together during protests and elections, but real people – even committed professionals – get tired of running through mazes of motions and countermotions, or reading thousands of pages about swaps-execution facilities and NRSROs. They will fight through it for five days, or maybe even six, but on the seventh they will watch a baseball game, or Tanked, instead of diving into that morass of hellish acronyms one more time.

But money never gets tired. It never gets frustrated. And it thinks that drilling holes in Dodd-Frank is every bit as interesting as The Book of Mormon or Kate Upton naked. The system has become too complex for flesh-and-blood people, who make the mistake of thinking that passing a new law means the end of the discussion, when it's really just the beginning of a war.

(Thanks to LongReads for the link.)

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