Here are some of the nuggets I gleaned from days spent reading Frank’s handiwork:
— For all its heft, the bill doesn’t once mention the words “too-big-to-fail,” the main issue confronting the financial system. Admitting you have a problem, as any 12- stepper knows, is the crucial first step toward recovery.
— Instead, it supports the biggest banks. It authorizes Federal Reserve banks to provide as much as $4 trillion in emergency funding the next time Wall Street crashes. So much for “no-more-bailouts” talk. That is more than twice what the Fed pumped into markets this time around. The size of the fund makes the bribes in the Senate’s health-care bill look minuscule.
— Oh, hold on, the Federal Reserve and Treasury Secretary can’t authorize these funds unless “there is at least a 99 percent likelihood that all funds and interest will be paid back.” Too bad the same models used to foresee the housing meltdown probably will be used to predict this likelihood as well.
— The bill also allows the government, in a crisis, to back financial firms’ debts. Bondholders can sleep easy — there are more bailouts to come.
— The legislation does create a council of regulators to spot risks to the financial system and big financial firms. Unfortunately this group is made up of folks who missed the problems that led to the current crisis.
— Don’t worry, this time regulators will have better tools. Six months after being created, the council will report to Congress on “whether setting up an electronic database” would be a help. Maybe they’ll even get to use that Internet thingy.
— This group, among its many powers, can restrict the ability of a financial firm to trade for its own account. Perhaps this section should be entitled, “Yes, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., we’re looking at you.”
This from the guy who told everyone back in 2005 that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were in fine shape. (Truthfully, they are in fine shape after Obama’s Christmas Eve “sky’s the limit” bailout. We’re the ones that have problems)
Oh, and one other thing, “the bill contains a provision that, in the event of another government request for emergency aid to prop up the financial system, debate in Congress be limited to just 10 hours.” Hopefully in the middle of the night when no one is paying attention.