There goes Krugman, making sense again:
So here’s the situation. We’ve been through the second-worst financial crisis in the history of the world, and we’ve barely begun to recover: 29 million Americans either can’t find jobs or can’t find full-time work. Yet all momentum for serious banking reform has been lost. The question now seems to be whether we’ll get a watered-down bill or no bill at all. And I hate to say this, but the second option is starting to look preferable.
[,,,] There’s no question that consumers need much better protection. The late Edward Gramlich — a Federal Reserve official who tried in vain to get Alan Greenspan to act against predatory lending — summarized the case perfectly back in 2007: “Why are the most risky loan products sold to the least sophisticated borrowers? The question answers itself — the least sophisticated borrowers are probably duped into taking these products.”
Is it important that this protection be provided by an independent agency? It must be, or lobbyists wouldn’t be campaigning so hard to prevent that agency’s creation.
And it’s not hard to see why. Some have argued that the job of protecting consumers can and should be done either by the Fed or — as in one compromise that at this point seems unlikely — by a unit within the Treasury Department. But remember, not that long ago Mr. Greenspan was Fed chairman and John Snow was Treasury secretary. Case closed. The only way consumers will be protected under future antiregulation administrations — and believe me, given the power of the financial lobby, there will be such administrations — is if there’s an agency whose whole reason for being is to police bank abuses.
In summary, then, it’s time to draw a line in the sand. No reform, coupled with a campaign to name and shame the people responsible, is better than a cosmetic reform that just covers up failure to act.