Today marks the anniversary of heath care reform, a policy that people are still explaining and defending at length, even though it's existed for a year. Coincidentally, today was also the day that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke spoke at the Independent Community Bankers of America convention in San Diego, where he was at pains to defend another months-old Obama-administration victory: the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform law, which passed last July.
In his remarks, Bernanke emphasized that the Dodd-Frank Act will have a much greater regulatory impact on large banks and financial institutions than it will on small and mid-sized firms like the ones represented at the ICBA conference. It's been a recurring concern for smaller bankers--especially since the government bailed out a number of major Wall Street firms in 2008--that the White House's efforts to reform the financial system will result in the less powerful institutions getting short shrift, and having to pay disproportionate costs.
But Bernanke assured the ICBA attendees that the government wasn't going to overlook them. Indeed, he said, "through our supervision, our gathering of economic intelligence and the activities of our community affairs departments, we will be able to remain fully engaged with grass-roots America." He added that "one benefit of the reforms should be the creation of a more level playing field for financial institutions of all sizes ... A financial system dominated by too-big-to-fail firms cannot be a healthy financial system."
Bernanke also said that he's "confident" the community banks will weather the recession and the regulatory changes to the industry, and remain "vibrant and resilient."
We hope Bernanke's not tired of making the case for Dodd-Frank: it's only been a law for eight months, so if health care is any indication, he's not quite out of the woods yet.