Dodd-Frank’s failures to rein in Wall Street’s excesses
- Last Updated: 1:33 AM, December 4, 2011
- Posted: 11:32 PM, December 3, 2011
When Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank announced that he would not seek a 16th term as representative from the Bay State, you could hear the sigh of relief on Wall Street.
Traders cheered that Frank wouldn’t be around to monitor their every move, and TV anchors rejoiced at the prospect of never having to be heckled by the prickly Frank again. But there is more to Frank’s retreat than meets the eye and behind that decision some insights into public opinion and the state of regulation three years after the bubble burst.
For all his liberal-leaning bluster, Frank is, if anything, a highly intelligent man. With several dozen IQ points on most of his Congressional colleagues, he is surely smart enough to know that he would likely lose next November, probably even without the voter re-shuffling in his Boston-area district.
The question is, why? Although the pin-stripe and green-room set have long loathed Frank, as the most vocal advocate for financial reform and a supposed champion of the 99 percent, Frank has been popular in Massachusetts.
Now he can’t even keep a seat in the most liberal state in the union, a seat he has held for 30 years. The answer as to why not lies in the landmark piece of legislation that bears his name — the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act — by most measures it has been a spectacular failure, and voters sense this.
They sense that although implementing Dodd-Frank has meant billions of spent taxpayer dollars and thousands of new government employees, it doesn’t have teeth where it should have them, and is too meddlesome in areas where it shouldn’t be.
For one, Americans wonder why the Wall Street ratings agencies who aided and abetted the financial meltdown are still getting their fees from the companies they rate.
A conflict of interest so glaring that one would think a 3,000 page “reform” law should have addressed it.
Voters also see the wild daily swings on Wall Street, more wild than they were before the crisis, and they wonder why Dodd-Frank does nothing to curtail the high-frequency trading that now dominates the markets. Restoring the up-tick rule would be a quick fix for that.
Then this fall, they are treated to watching Frank’s fellow-Democratic Jon Corzine run his MF Global trading operation into the ground with the greatest of ease, as if 2008 never happened.
The curbs on proprietary trading, i.e. playing with the house’s money, that Dodd-Frank was supposed to enforce did nothing to prevent MF’s colossal flame-out.
So what good are those rules anyway? What gives?
Then there are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, piggy banks to the political class (especially Democrats) and ground zero of the housing bubble.
Americans haven’t forgotten what went on at these government-sponsored enterprises. They want answers.
Perhaps a Frank-free Congress emboldened by a big class of freshman members will finally bring forth a true investigation into these twin enablers of the housing mess.
After surviving a prostitution scandal and Newt Gingrich’s Republican Revolution in 1994, Barney Frank couldn’t survive fallout from the financial reform act he created, or the perception that the bill wasn’t fair, nor was it balanced.
The financial industry bears a lot of the blame for the economic mess we are in, but so too does Washington.
Let’s hope that Frank’s departure will usher in a new group of lawmakers who will regulate what needs to be regulated and let the free markets do the rest of the work.