With the White House signaling that it wants financial regulatory reform to be signed into law by the end of May (a timetable that even some Democrats find a tad optimistic), misleading rhetoric from the right is proliferating. Last week, for instance, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) falsely claimed that the bill passed by the Senate Banking Committee creates a “slush fund” for banks that are “too important to close.”
Today, it was Rep. Tom Price’s (R-GA) turn. He claimed on Fox News that the Senate bill “would continue the bailout mentality…and increases the regulatory oppression.” But Price gave some key insight into what the GOP would rather do, which is evidently “unleash the wonder and the beauty and the awe” of Wall Street by making regulation “more flexible and nimble”:
The bill that’s on the table, and the one that the President evidently supports, would continue the bailout mentality, does nothing to rein in Fannie and Freddie, which really were a lot of the problem in the housing market especially, and increases the regulatory oppression, as opposed to making it more flexible and nimble and allowing the economy to work. We believe that there ought to be appropriate reform, but we believe it ought to unleash the wonder and the beauty and the awe of the American economy.
It might be worth asking the residents of Jefferson County, Alabama — who are buried under a mountain of debt thanks to financial instruments peddled by Wall Street — just what all that wonder, beauty, and awe is good for. This comes back to Paul Volcker’s pronouncement that the greatest financial innovation of the last 25 years is the ATM, while the rest has just gone to boost bank profits without adding any societal benefit.
Predictably, Fox News Bill Hemmer didn’t push back on Price’s Frank Luntz-approved talking point about the Senate bill preserving bailouts. But as Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair pointed out in today’s Wall Street Journal, bailouts are not a part of the bill:
Both the already passed House bill, as well as the bill approved by the Senate Banking Committee, draw on the FDIC model to create a resolution authority that specifically applies to large, complex nonbank financial firms. Under both bills, bankruptcy would be the normal process. But under extraordinary procedures, the government would have the option to put the very largest firms into an FDIC-style liquidation process if necessary to avert a broader systemic collapse…Some have tried to label the FDIC model as a “bailout” because it is not bankruptcy. Yet the FDIC process is anything but a bailout, as any small bank can attest.
New data reveals that more than half of the assets in the financial system are held by just 16 banks, making the creation of a credible resolution authority for closing them down even more important. Since Price seems to be so enamored with the activities of the biggest banks, maybe he thinks it’s a bad thing that they’ll be closed down when they fail, but I doubt many others would agree.