Special Interest Groups and Partisan Politics Thwart Necessary Financial Legislation


Mainstream USAToday editors expressed amazement over the “just say no” partisanship of the Republican party and the unnecessarily long and contentious battle to pass the financial reform package (“Mindless partisanship mars passage of banking reform,” July 16, 2010). The editors had though that “the worst financial meltdown since the Depression” would have provided sufficient motivation to rise above the partisan excess that was unfortunately displayed. For instance, they thought that the “chastened banks” would accept change. “But that’s not quite how things worked out. After a few weeks of remorse, Wall Street got its swagger back and fought like mad to preserve its profits.”

Bending over backwards to be balanced, the editors said that “to some on the left, it was a feeble gesture because it does not carve up big banks like Christmas hams and feed them to the poor.” But only one Democrat voted against the bill for not going far enough (Feingold), and all but three Republicans voted no. Unfortunately, even though the bill passed, many provisions have been “watered down” by special interest groups.

For example, Republican House Minority Leader John Behner said the legislation was like “trying to kill a gnat with a nuclear weapon.” It is that kind of mindless, pandering hyperbole that the USAToday editors reacted to. It’s hard for most Americans to forget the economic turmoil that Wall Street and its “weapons of mass destruction” have caused.

Though imperfect, the Dodd-Frank bill, USAToday editors acknowledge that it “is clearly a step toward making the system safer. It restricts risky trading, requires banks to maintain stronger balance sheets and sets up an orderly process for liquidating those that fail.”

As regulators promulgate rules to implement the legislation, Americans shouldn’t forget the trillions of dollars of “troubled assets” created and sold by Wall Street banks that directly caused the credit markets to freeze worldwide, resulted in millions of jobs lost, and brought our economic system to its knees. Let’s hope that the regulators are not as easily swayed by partisan politics and special interest groups as Congress has been.