Thursday, May 6, 2010

Regulating Wall Street: things looking up!

Judging by how upset Barack and his Banker Buddies have been in recent days, the financial reform bill coming out of the Senate is likely to be a lot stronger than most of us expected. Sherrod Brown and Ted Kaufman's proposal to reimpose caps on deposits and liabilities a single bank can have on its books looks like it will be part of the final bill; and while Blanche Lincoln's proposal to force banks to divest themselves of their derivatives desks is far from a sure thing, it is doing well enough to make Tim Geithner squirm.

Most encouraging is that support for these and other new restrictions have bipartisan support, showing that members of both parties have noticed the popular rage against big finance, and are afraid to buck it. There is support on both sides of the aisle for the Volcker Rule, which would bar banks from proprietary trading; support on both sides for reinstating Glass-Steagall separation of commercial and investment banking; and an extraordinary alliance of the left and the right calling for expanding GAO powers to audit the Fed.

The bank lobby — with full support of the Robert-Rubinesque contingent of the Obama administration — is working mightily to construct "placebo amendments," substitute proposals senators could vote for that would make it appear they support reform while continuing to serve the plutocrats.

So, stay alert. As many have noted, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rein in the banks. If it doesn't happen this time, it won't happen until the next mega-recession comes along.

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