The House Financial Services Committee, chaired by Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, held a hearing July 23 titled "Assessing the Impact of the Dodd-Frank Act Four Years Later," featuring former Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., a former chairman of the committee and co-author of the Act, and four representatives of interests that have complaints about the way it has been implemented, or "limplemented," as this writer prefers to say, in the intervening four years.
This first article will concentrate on the testimony of Frank and will be followed by another article that will summarize the testimony of the other panelists.
Perhaps it was only fitting that the event consumed four hours that viewers will never see again, one for each year of the still-unfinished process that this observer has said from the outset would be one of exempting every interest group from the aptly named Wall Street Reform Act. The people who name these programs have no sense of irony, failing to appreciate that the Act should be so named, not because it reforms Wall Street, but because it serves Wall Street, every day in every way. The same namers never realized that the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) held trouble in store for all but the beneficiaries of this sweeping, ongoing bailout of "too big to fail" banks.
It is difficult to give this hearing more than 2.5 gavels as political theater, because while at its best it offered moments of insight and drama, at its worst it featured members serially pandering to the community banker lobby as bankers who benefit from an elaborate federal support system complain that a business model built for an agrarian society is no longer working for them.
Four years on, the proponents of and apologists for Dodd-Frank have still not come to terms with the fact that the Bush administration was caught just as flat-footed by the 2008 episode of the ongoing, permanent financial crisis as it was by 9/11. Congress, likewise, was evidently totally unprepared with an independent playbook that would equip it to stand up against the onslaught of desperate bankers who had occupied the halls of the Treasury and Federal Reserve.
Thus, at the big picture level, the hearing featured a debate about whether Dodd-Frank achieved its stated objective of ending the discredited policy of Too Big to Fail.
The drama played out when Frank was challenged not only by committee Republicans, as expected, but also by Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., a senior Democrat and CPA. Sherman rejected Frank's insistence that the means the authorities had used to bail out Wall Street would not be available next time, and that to say otherwise is to assert that the Treasury secretary and Fed chair would violate the law. Sherman dismissed this claim by predicting that when the time comes, Congress and the administration would produce a new law, as they have before.
(Archived video, the staff memorandum and witness testimony can be found here
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