I'll confess to having been a cynic about Sen. Chris Dodd, Democrat from Conn. In BROKE, I note that Dodd, pictured, had accepted tens of thousands of dollars from payday lenders and other fringe financiers. He had also been spotted having dinner with the online payday lenders, who charge rates so high they make the bricks-and-mortar payday lenders seem like a bargain. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, he would be a key combatant in the fight over financial reform. Uh-oh.
But, Mr. Dodd, hats off -- and to you, too, Barney Frank and also the president's people. I spent two years on the economic fringes talking to victims of predatory loans and their advocates. People like Martin Eakes, founder of the Center for Responsible Lending, and Bill Brennan, an Atlanta Legal Aid attorney who has dedicated most of the past two decades of his life to fighting the spread of predatory mortgage lending. The new Dodd-Frank bill does pretty much everything they wanted it to do, including the creation of an independent consumer protection bureau. Consumer champions are happy and throwing around terms like "landmark legislation." My take here at TheAtlantic.com.'
TheAtlantic piece: 1,200 words, which is where posts on its site tend to max out. Here's some of the 1,700-word version I had originally handed in:
The too-big-too-fail crowd – those for whom meaningful financial reform reduced down to cutting down the country’s biggest banks to size –chimed in to express their discontent. Congress had failed to reinstate Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era law that, until it was tossed in the deregulation frenzy of the 1980s and 1990s, had prevented the corner bank from risking its federally-insured deposits by playing investment banker or getting into the insurance game. After months of political wrangling, our financial system will still be dominated by a cluster of interconnected monsters that threaten to take down a big chunk of the economy if one goes bust.
But then I’m not sure which is more dangerous to the American public. A small coterie of $200-billion banks in possession of a new gimmick for getting rich or a dozen, each worth $20 billion and each feeling quarterly pressures to raise earnings.
I’ll confess to disappointments in some of the last-minute horse-trading, much of which played out on CSPAN. The watering down of the rules governing derivates was a byproduct of a New York delegation looking out for Wall Street’s interests (and by extension, they would argue, the states’) and I wish the imminently sensible Volcker Rule, formulated by the imminently sensible former Fed Chair Paul Volcker, had been codified as law untouched. It’s insane that the big banks (and their federally-insured deposits) can play both the house and make side bets in its own casinos but the spirit of the Volcker Rule lives on, even if not his precise proposal. At least now the big banks will be able to wager just 3 percent of its capital and own no more than 3 percent of any hedge fund or private equity pool.