Last week the Wire brought you a roundup
of ideas on how to prevent the next financial crisis. The Dodd bill, a
set of reform measures under consideration in the Senate, proposed by
Democratic Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, does't incorporate all of
those ideas. As always, of course, bloggers can find plenty to pick at:
don't like the restrictions on startup investing, while others
want a bill that specifically addresses the "too big to fail" problem.
But there's one thing in particular that's bothering a lot of people:
the lack of clear rules for what banks can and cannot do, and what
do. In other words, there would be more oversight under the Dodd
bill, but there would be a lot of wiggle room and discretion given to
- Works for a Determined Administration Only "The Dodd bill," argues economist Paul Krugman
at The New York Times, "would give an administration determined to rein
in runaway finance the tools it needs to do the job. But it wouldn’t do
much to stiffen the spine of a less determined administration." In
other words, it "would create a system highly dependent on the wisdom
and good intentions of government officials." It proposes to let
"federal regulators enforce 'strict rules "'strict rules for capital,
leverage, liquidity, risk management and other requirements'" but
doesn't say what those rules will be.
- 'A Trojan Horse for the Status Quo' John Judis
for The New Republic observes that there are several "obvious lessons
that most points out that most economists and policy-makers outside the
University of Chicago have drawn from this financial crisis." But the
measures they agree upon, drawing on these lessons, "are not written
into law [under Dodd's plan], but are to be carried out at the
discretion of ... the Financial Stability Oversight Council." What's
wrong with this? "Whenever an agency doesn’t do its job in Washington,
the temptation is to create still another agency to oversee it." But
who's to say, argues Judis, this new council will do any better than
the Fed did?
- Just Awful Barry Ritholtz calls the Dodd plan a "limp ineffective series of toothless proposals." His ideas for real reform (including hard rules) are here.
- 'A Nice, Sugary Taste,' writes Mike Konczal
of the Dodd bill. The SEC, he explains, gave exemptions to Goldman
Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, and Morgan
Stanley, allowing them to to increase leverage to about 20-40 to 1.
is nothing in the Dodd Bill that would have stopped this other than the
hope that regulators at the Federal Reserve are smarter, more resistant
to lobbying, and will let their actions be more transparently
monitored, critiqued and subject to democratic review by the public and
the general community of investors than the SEC. Maybe this is true
today, and maybe this is even true on a medium term time frame. By why
take the chance, when we can simply put in a hard line of 15-to-1 like
in the Frank Bill?
- Asking Too Much "Any bill," declares Reuters's James Pethokoukis simply, "that requires prescience by regulators and then the will to act on unpopular forecasts is doomed to fail."
- Psychics "Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.," writes Forbes's Nicole Gelinas,
"wants to legislate clairvoyance, requiring financial regulators to see
the future perfectly and prevent it before it happens."
- Let Me Put It This Way The Washington Post's Ezra Klein
made his name making health care reform comprehensible. This is his
stab at explaining the problem people have with the Dodd bill: "if you
just told someone the basic facts of the case--'we had a huge financial
crisis abetted by lax and captured regulators and we're going to try to
prevent the next one by giving those regulators way more power'--they'd
think it pretty weird."
- 'An Is-Ought Problem,' offers Joseph Cotterill
as a "meta-ethical take," in a casual wave to philosopher David Hume. "Senator
Chris Dodd's gigantic financial reform bill is starting to attract a
bit of nerd rage for giving regulators power to regulate--but not the
requirement to use it."
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