Friday, April 23, 2010


I have to admit I was very pleasantly surprised by the proposed derivatives regulations that came out of the Senate's Agriculture committee — so much so, that I think it would be fantastic if somebody could find a way to assign farm price supports, the next time they come up, to Banking and Finance.

Blanche Lincoln provided real leadership, and Charles Grassley bravely decided to satisfy Iowa voters rather than adhere to monolithic Republican Party discipline. (Well, maybe he had permission.) However it happened, the bill reported out of committee is significantly better than the House version.

Perhaps it's because those farm state Senators have a genuine understanding of the way derivatives are supposed to work. The reason Agriculture is responsible for derivatives is because farmers need futures contracts to manage risk . Those contracts always have been traded openly and, by and large, they have done the job for both farmers and end users of agricultural products. Markets do work, provided they are not diddled by those who look for ways to profit from market failure.

So now it's "wait and see" time again. I don't think the Republicans are dumb enough to filibuster a financial reform bill, but who knows? With enough pressure from Fox News and the minions of Dick Armey, it still could happen.

More important to the final bill, though, is what comes down from the White House. Geithner and Summers have been mouthing some of the "correct" pronouncements lately, but nobody ever should forget just how much money Wall Street has to sling around. A hell of a lot was tossed at Obama during the 2008 campaign, and thanks to the Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United case, there will be a hell of a lot more to be tossed around in the future.

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