The Disingenuous Push Against Financial Reform

As powers array against the financial reform package, set to hit the House floor as soon as Monday, it’s best to note the (few) arguments being marshaled against a serious, hard look at what brought the nation to this precipice.

First, the notion that reform will somehow kill a financial structure that’s been working — courtesy the Post.

I can forgive those who live outside the city for thinking that maybe the financial crisis was an isolated incident, unlikely to recur, and incapable of redress for fear of hurting a largely functional system. But to live and work in New York City, as the Post’s staff does, and not acknowledge the changes, on every street corner, since the collapse, constitutes blindness verging on deliberate deceit. Pick a corner of the city: once a pure business district, the Financial District is struggling to reinvent itself as a new residential zone. Walk the length of Wall Street — it’s not long — the entire south side is now apartment buildings made from closed banks. Spend one day in a professional office and count the empty desks. Someone needs to save New York from itself — especially if elements among us remain convinced that everything is fine.

Second, the gross distortion posed by some Republicans, who would characterize financial reform as a second “bailout.”

It’s funny to see Republicans work both angles. On the one hand, reform will kill innovation and stifle business; but business is evil. So reform will help business, which no-one wants! Someone should force them to reconcile the cognitive dissonance.

In the interim, note that the businesses we pose for regulation are not your typical American business. They are not engines of prosperity, the kind that built the national infrastructure, and made us what we are today. Nor are they small-time family shops. When we talk about financial reform, we’re talking about Magnetar-like entities, predicated on exploitation and skirting the corners of laws. Nor is this a particularly novel idea. We’ve regulated business entities based on their risk and chance for exploitation for seventy-seven years. This is about updating the laws to cover new, equivalent harms — it’s about making explicit the equity of the statute. Nothing could be closer, or more essential to the good work of government — and, thus, farther from the Republicans’ minds.

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