Jan 102010
 

NO COMPROMISE TOP 10

As the debate over financial reform moves to the Senate I’ve written a couple of open letters to my senators. I’m not endorsing any particular legislative proposals but I do outline the items that shouldn’t be compromised.

Feel free to borrow my ideas for letters to your own senators, or to disagree. Whether you agree or disagree, I’d like to hear what you think.

What’s your bottom line on what financial reform should contain?

OPEN LETTER TO SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN

Dear Sen. Feinstein:

Throughout the economic crisis, you have continued to raise serious questions about whether the bailout was protecting the financial industry or the public. Now is the time to turn that skepticism into constructive action.

Sen. Feinstein, voters are counting on your continuing leadership to make sure Congress provides real financial reform to prevent future meltdowns and bailouts stemming from reckless practices and lack of government oversight.

Though you voted for the bailout, at the time, in September 2008, you compared the  preparations for the so-called financial rescue to the build-up to the war in Iraq. “There is a great deal of cynicism among those of us who have to live with having voted to go into Iraq based on misinformation and intelligence that later turned out not to be truthful,” you said.

On March 23 of this year, you were among a group of senators who met with President Obama to express concern that his administration’s proposals didn’t go far enough, and that his economic advisers were many of the same people who oversaw the deregulatory fever that played such a key role in our financial crisis.

Unfortunately, Sen. Feinstein, your concerns have been borne out.

Financial reform as passed by the House of Representatives is filled with loopholes. Lobbyists from financial firms recently rescued from ruin by taxpayers have mounted a fierce campaign to maintain a system in which “too big to fail” institutions” can manipulate the regulatory system.

The good news is that Sen. Chris. Dodd has proposed much stronger legislation, the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2009.  By all accounts, his proposal faces a bruising battle as the financial industry gathers all its forces to protect its interests. Sen. Dodd has indicated that compromise is inevitable.

But Sen. Feinstein, the stakes are too high to compromise on the most important aspects of reform. Some of these are contained in Sen. Dodd’s proposal. Others are contained in other legislative proposals under consideration in the session about to begin.

Please help make sure that these key elements of reform are not the victims of compromise:

• Vote against the confirmation of Ben Bernanke to another term as Federal Reserve chair. He was at the center of the bubbles before the meltdown and also helped engineer a bailout that profited Wall Street while Main Street suffered.

•Reinstate a modern-day form of Glass-Steagal, as proposed by Sens. McCain and Cantwell.

•Audit the Federal Reserve, as proposed in legislation sponsored by Reps. Paul and Grayson, which would open up the operations of the institution to public scrutiny for the first time.

•Reconsider and approve judicial cram-downs, which would give bankruptcy judges the power to lower mortgage payments. This would put real teeth in the Obama Administration’s anti-foreclosure efforts.

In the Dodd bill:

• Support creation of a strong, independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency, with regulatory oversight of the Community Reinvestment Act (not provided in the House bill)

•Support creation of a an Agency for Financial Stability, responsible for identifying, monitoring and addressing systemic risks posed by large complex companies and their products, with the authority to break up firms if they pose a threat to the financial stability of the country

• Remove exemptions (contained in the House reform bill) for banks and credit unions with assets of less than $10 billion – about 98 percent of deposit-taking institutions in the country.

• Bar pre-emption (also allowed in the House bill), which would let states, if they choose, to pass tougher financial regulations for nationally chartered banks.

• Don’t exempt other consumer-financial businesses,  such as auto dealers from oversight by the Consumer Financial Protection Agency (as the House bill does.)

• Give two agencies, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission broad authority to force derivatives markets onto exchanges where they pose less risk.

I’m urging you to put everything you’ve got behind this fight to protect consumers and homeowners. Voters put their trust and faith in you to see that their interests are protected, not compromised away. We’re relying on you to convince your colleagues to put the public’s interests ahead of the private profits and the power of the financial giants.

Sen. Feinstein, your skeptical instincts have been right since the Bush administration tried ramrod through a 3-page $700 bailout. Now everyone in the country can plainly see how that bailout benefited the large financial institutions but did little for small business, consumers and  homeowners. Thank you for your raising the right questions in the past. Thank you for helping us get back on the right track now.

Sincerely,

Martin Berg

Editor

WheresOurMoney.org

AN OPEN LETTER TO SEN. BARBARA BOXER

Dear Sen. Boxer:

Voters are counting on your continuing leadership to make sure the promise of real fundamental financial reform becomes a reality.

In 1989, you were one of a handful of senators to vote against repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, the Depression-era law that had kept banks’ traditional business separate from their riskier speculative business.

Though you were in the small minority opposing the deregulatory fever sweeping Washington, your vote showed tremendous leadership, courage and prescience.

You withstood the pressures from financial industry lobbyists and contributors as well as the demands of your own party. As you know, then-President Clinton and his economic advisers, after initially opposing the repeal, eventually made a deal to sign off on the dismantling of Glass-Steagall.

We all know what happened over the last decade – record profits for financial institutions while the economic foundation for American families has gotten increasingly shaky. Voters have watched with dismay as the massive federal bailout has helped create even fewer financial institutions, with even greater wealth and wielding even more political power.

Neither the Obama administration’s proposals nor the bill passed by the House of Representatives offer sweeping reform, nor do they do anything to break up the power of the “too big to fail” institutions. They also don’t do enough to ease the threat these banks continue to pose to the rest of the economy.

Now Sen. Christopher Dodd has proposed much stronger legislation, the Restoring American Financial Stability.  By all accounts, his proposal faces a bruising battle as the financial industry gathers all its forces to protect its interests. Sen. Dodd has indicated that compromise is inevitable.

But Sen. Boxer, the stakes are too high to compromise on the most important aspects of reform. Some of these are contained in Sen. Dodd’s proposal. Others are contained in other legislative proposals under consideration in the session about to begin.

Please help make sure that these key elements of reform are not the victims of compromise:

• Vote against the confirmation of Ben Bernanke to another term as Federal Reserve chair. He was at the center of the bubbles before the meltdown, helped engineer a bailout that profited Wall Street while Main Street suffered, and has fought increased transparency in the financial system.

• Reinstate a modern-day form of Glass-Steagall, proposed by Sens. McCain and Cantwell.

• Audit the Federal Reserve, as suggested in the proposal by Reps. Paul and Grayson, which would open up the operations of the institution to public scrutiny for the first time.

• Reconsider and approve judicial cram-downs, which would give bankruptcy judges the power to lower mortgage payments. This would put real teeth in the Obama Administration’s anti-foreclosure efforts.

In the Dodd bill:

• Support creation of a strong, independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency, with regulatory oversight of the Community Reinvestment Act (not provided in the House bill).

• Support creation of a an Agency for Financial Stability, responsible for identifying, monitoring and addressing systemic risks posed by large complex companies and their products, with the authority to break up firms if they pose a threat to the financial stability of the country.

• Remove exemptions (contained in the House reform bill) for banks and credit unions with assets of less than $10 billion – about 98 percent of deposit-taking institutions in the country.

• Bar pre-emption (also allowed in the House bill), which would let states, if they choose, to pass tougher financial regulations for nationally chartered banks.

• Don’t exempt other consumer-financial businesses,  such as auto dealers from oversight by the Consumer Financial Protection Agency (as the House bill does).

• Give two agencies, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission broad authority to force derivatives markets onto exchanges where they pose less risk.

I’m urging you to put everything you’ve got behind this fight to protect consumers and homeowners. Voters put their trust and faith in you to see that their interests are protected, not compromised away. We’re relying on you to convince your colleagues to put the public’s interests ahead of the private profits and the power of the financial giants.

Sen. Boxer, you were right in 1989 when you were in the minority. Now everyone in the country can plainly see the wreckage from the great deregulatory experiment you opposed. Thank you for your vision. Thank you for helping us get back on the right track now.

Sincerely,

Martin Berg

Editor

WheresOurMoney.org

About Martin Berg

Martin Berg, WheresOurMoney.org editor, is a veteran journalist.

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