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Tilting at Windmills

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July 15, 2010

WALL STREET REFORM BILL CLEARS CONGRESS, HEADS TO THE WHITE HOUSE.... It wasn't easy, and it took a little longer than expected, but one of the pillars of the Democratic agenda -- a sweeping Wall Street reform bill -- cleared Congress today, and is poised to become law.

The Senate voted, 60 to 39, to approve an overhaul of the financial regulatory system on Thursday, heralding the end of more than a generation in which the prevailing posture of Washington toward the financial industry was largely one of hands-off admiration.

"We all know Wall Street isn't going to reform itself," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said today. "Those who vote 'no' are standing with the same bankers who gambled with our homes and economic security in the first place."

The final roll found three Republicans -- Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Scott Brown (Mass.) -- joining the entire Democratic caucus, except Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), in supporting the bill. It now heads to the White House for President Obama's signature.

There's some confusion, apparently, as to exactly when that will happen. The Hill reports that the president may sign the legislation into law today, while the New York Times reports it's likely to be next week. Given the fact that Obama is in Michigan today, I'd be surprised if the signing ceremony were ready for this afternoon.

Either way, the reform package, formally called the "Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act," represents the biggest regulatory change for the financial industry since the Great Depression. Kevin Drum had a good item recently, highlighting several of its key provisions. He concluded, "Given the alternatives, anyone who cares about financial reform should support this bill."

In the larger context, Wall Street reform also gets added to the list of breakthrough accomplishments of the last 18 months, a list that now includes health care reform, an economy-saving Recovery Act, a long-sought overhaul of the nation's student-loan system, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, new regulation of the credit card industry, new regulation of the tobacco industry, a national service bill, expanded stem-cell research, and the most sweeping land-protection act in 15 years, among other things.

As Rachel Maddow recently observed, "The last time any president did this much in office, booze was illegal. If you believe in policy, if you believe in government that addresses problems, cheers to that."

Of course, the president's leadership made progress on this agenda possible, but kudos also obviously have to go to the House and Senate leadership, especially on Wall Street reform, which looked to be in deep trouble more than once. Time will tell what happens in the midterms, but Americans haven't seen a Congress as successful as 111th in at least a generation.

Steve Benen 3:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (37)

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Cue the firebagger whining about how Obama has disappointed them again.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on July 15, 2010 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

I was pleasantly surprised to not see the usual ranting from the financial section of Huffington Post about how Obama is a failure on the passage of this bill. It seems Nasiripour must have had his one sided reporting highlighted enough to force him to for once, inform the public about what was passed rather than informing them on everything that should have passed.


Posted by: mikefromArlington on July 15, 2010 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

"...........inform the public about what was passed rather than informing them on everything that should have passed."

THIS is the issue I have with some bloggers. I

Posted by: Alli on July 15, 2010 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Why would he want to sign it so quickly? This is the kind of thing that calls for a Rose Garden ceremony. Health care was signed quietly as I recall because it was becoming less popular and the process to get it through was very ugly. This is something the administration should be crying from the mountaintops.

Posted by: Vondo on July 15, 2010 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

The perfect is the enemy of the good. Glaciers move slowly, but they DO move. Rome wasn't built in a day. Blah blah blah. . .

Posted by: DAY on July 15, 2010 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

Why would he want to sign it so quickly?

He's signing it next week, not today.

Posted by: DJ on July 15, 2010 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Already one of the greatest presidents ever.

Posted by: impik on July 15, 2010 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

Don't care. Need jobs. Children and families starving. No hope in sight.

Posted by: NealB on July 15, 2010 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

And can we get a little love for the Administration's rescue of the U.S. auto industry? Obama entered office facing not only a Great Recession but a failing auto industry as well, with both Chrysler and GM in bankruptcy and on the road to elimination. 18 months later they're still with us and apparently doing at least OK. Try to imagine if these two companies had been allowed to crash completely in Obama's first year. Teabaggers can whine about Obama "taking over the auto-industry" or some such nonsense, but he deserves some credit on this.

Posted by: bulworth on July 15, 2010 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Also CNN is reporting that as of this moment the oil spill is stopped.

Posted by: mcc on July 15, 2010 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Hi Steve,

I'm a long time reader and a fan.

Unfortunately (for us liberals, anyway), your reading of Nate's numbers is not correct. Nate's graph is a cumulative density function, in which you can't just add up column totals to get a overall percentage. This is opposed to a simple density function, in which what you did would be perfectly valid.

I eyeballed the density function and came away with the following probabilities:

Chance to Stay Pat OR gain ground: 5.3%
Chance to gain ground: 3.1%

In other words, we only have one chance in twenty of even holding on to 59 seats, never mind gaining. Our chances of gaining are less than one in thirty-three.

A 26% chance of gaining ground would occur if we had something close to a similar number of R-leaning and D-leaning seats. Obviously, that's not the case this cycle.

Regardless, your overall point still stands.

Posted by: puggins on July 15, 2010 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK


My apologies- I posted the comment in the wrong thread. This was in the thread about losing the reconciliation process.

As an aside, I thought you got 26% by adding up probabilities, but now see you got it from Nate, where he postulates a significant swing in overall voter attitude. The swing is purely theoretical at this point. (we can but hope...)

And one more thing- I misread the graph slightly. The chances are a bit better than I wrote- it's actually 11% chance of 60+ and 19% of at least standing pat. Still not good odds.

Posted by: puggins on July 15, 2010 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

As Republicans constantly demonstrate, perception is usually more important than reality. Obama and his Democratic cohorts may have accomplished much in the way of breadth of legislation, but the perception is that there isn't much depth to these accomplishments. Although the reality is that Obama accomplished as much as he could under the circumstances, the perception is that he capitulates too quickly under the noble cause of bipartisanship. It is almost too bad that much of what the right-wing accuses Obama of being and doing isn't actually true.

Posted by: qwerty on July 15, 2010 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

Wall Street reform has passed. Health care reform is law and in a from that won't bankrupt our country. Pretty impressive. Oh, and the economic stimulus legislation that passed has proven to be very successful, saved or created a million plus jobs and could have possibly prevented a depression. Pretty cool beans I would say. Working hard on DADT repeal in spite of what many say. Probably will pass soon. School loan reform, credit card reforms, progress on restoring our reputation world wide, working on solutions in Iraq and Afghanistan, two tragically impossible situations to resolve, taking crap from every direction especially from those who should be supporting a president doing an incredible job dealing with some of the most difficult issues our country has dealt with. No, he hasn't solved every problem all at once to the satisfaction of all but he is doing better than anyone else. President Obama has shown his integrity and class in the face of extreme adversity. I am hoping the rest of the country catches up with him.

Posted by: tiredofgreed on July 15, 2010 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

qwerty It is only true if you believe the talking points of the GOP and the corporate media. It saddens me to see intelligent people fooled by morons.

Posted by: tiredofgreed on July 15, 2010 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

Three cheers!

Finally people are noticing this president has had extraordinary successes, while the dying GOP grabbed all the headlines.

Posted by: jjm on July 15, 2010 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

@tiredofgreed, please, get back to me when you find the capping of interest rates in that "Victorious" credit card bill.

Passing watered down bills does not, necessarily, create ticker tape parades down Broadway.

Posted by: berttheclock on July 15, 2010 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

qwerty: Although the reality is that Obama accomplished as much as he could under the circumstances, the perception is that he capitulates too quickly under the noble cause of bipartisanship.

A perception that has been intentionally perpetuated by the far left in order to further handicap his efforts.

Posted by: cr on July 15, 2010 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

berttheclock If the interest rate is too high get rid of the card, or better yet control your spending and don't use credit cards.

Posted by: tiredofgreed on July 15, 2010 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

Three cheers for Harry, Nancy and Mr. Prez. They have rallied and the last 6 months have shown they can get crap done in the face of a lot of bullshit being flung their way from every side.

@berttheclock- whining about the Credit Card bill is just ridiculous. It was a major step forward on a lot of fronts and had the big banks scrambling to deal with it. Reasonably intelligent people already work with local Credit Unions and have their debt under control. You can't fix stupid but that bill did a lot to make it harder for banks to bleed the stupid quite as blatantly.

Posted by: Mowgli on July 15, 2010 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

I am overwhelmed by the positivity shown here. For awhile there I thought I had been transported to Mordor. Remember, the media needs controversy and a divided populace at each others throats to attract viewers and readers. To them good news smells.

Posted by: tiredofgreed on July 15, 2010 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

I join in support of the President and am amazed at the amount of important legislation that has been passed in the face of a difficult political climate. I'd like to suggest a new meme for the main stream media - "Republicans powerless to stop Democrates from rolling back the Reagan era."

Posted by: Scott F. on July 15, 2010 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

Tired of Greed, I have one thing to say to you:


Posted by: JD on July 15, 2010 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

Well, bert-the-firebagger, last time I checked, no one is forced to have or use a high-interest credit card. People do have the option of showing some personal responsibility and setting their own limits and living within them.

Christ, the fringe lefties are as tiresome as the teabaggers, and I would guess that I am not the only one who has arrived at a point where we would like to vote the whole bleeding lot of you on both ends of the spectrum off the island and be done with it.

Posted by: Grow Up! on July 15, 2010 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

"fringe lefties" - Hal-a-Loo. The Obama Tabernacle Choir has spoken. Tired of Greed and Grow Up!, I suggest you read the very interesting column by Senator Ted Kaufman over at HuffPo, where he asks whether obtaining 60 votes was worth our watering down this important measure. In addition, I suggest you read more of the gallant efforts of Senator Bernie Sanders to cap interest rates on cards. However, I am so very happy to see both of you never over extend your credit and brush and floss after every meal. I swear some of you on the left are as bad as many of the RepuGnants. "Victory Uber Alles", no matter how it is obtained. Having a watered down bill pass which does not address "Too Big to Fail" is more of a D-Day moment in "The Longest Day", when the lone Luftwaffe pilot stepped from his ME-109, after making one strafing pass of the beach and declared, "Another Glorious Victory". Have some God Damned balls, Progressives and pass some needed un-Watered Down bills which will help our middle class and those below that level. No wonder the number of comments have fallen off drastically at this site. Well, we have theygaveusarepublic and bluegirl.redstate for some intelligent Progressive thoughts. Now, let the Obama Tabernacle Choir commence with their vitriol.

Posted by: berttheclock on July 15, 2010 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK

The O-bots are sounding increasingly desperate these days. I guess they're starting to realize that their favorite moderate Republican president is looking more and more like a one-termer thanks to his utter failure to deal effectively with the economic crisis (or much of anything for that matter.) Firebag that, dumbasses.

Meanwhile, after this latest Potemkin "success", the giant parasitic financial industry still dominates the economy (out of which it's still sucking what little life remains) and owns Washington.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on July 15, 2010 at 7:34 PM | PERMALINK

Watered up is more like it. The Senate bill was stronger than the House version and in conference the bill got even stronger.

The Franken amendment dealing with reforming credit rating agencies is huge. So is putting derivatives on exchanges and clearinghouses, creating a consumer protection agency (Richard Shelby tried everything in his power to get rid of that one), the Volcker Rule which nobody expected to make it into the final bill, resolution authority, massive oversight "funeral plans and too big to fail is addressed.

The NYT has the breakdown


Posted by: woody45 on July 15, 2010 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

A question for Steve Labonne and berttheclock: where are all those progressive votes in the House and Senate? You know, the ones that would have ensured the PO, and a stronger FinReg? Oh, and there would have been that $1 trillion dollar stimulus, too.
I couldn't find them either....

Posted by: Doug on July 15, 2010 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

Perception is reality, and since the GOP is currently dominating the media, they are determining what reality is.

Now that they've passed financial reform and now that the GOP has cut off unemployment benefits, the Dems need to make a very strong effort to redefine themselves as the party which cares and stands up for the interests of the lower and middle classes. Do that and they'll be fine come November.

Posted by: mfw13 on July 15, 2010 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK
too big to fail is addressed

With lip service. Pity, since actually breaking up the behemoths is the ONLY thing that can really break their stranglehold. The rest is window dressing to make the suckers feel like "something" has been done. Which means that there is now a great excuse for doing nothing till the next crisis, though that may not be long delayed.

Democrats, very definitely including Obama and his capo di tutti capi Rahm, can't raise cash from Wall Street and at the same time deal adequately with its crimes and the danger it continues to present to all of us. (Remember, financial deregulation was a key Clinton "accomplishment".) They have once again made their choice, and it's not the one in favor of their voters.

It's like climate. When radical changes are actually needed to stave off disaster, nibbling around the edges is worse than a waste of time.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on July 15, 2010 at 8:27 PM | PERMALINK
A question for Steve Labonne and berttheclock: where are all those progressive votes in the House and Senate?

Where you'd expect them to be when the party is bought and paid for. This is a case where a vocal bully-pulpit campaign against Wall Street by Obama would have accomplished far more in the long run than scurrying to pass let's-pretend "reform" legislation. (Instead, the also bought and paid for Obama was pushing behind the scenes to water it down further- which is shameful.) The only way to deal with the financial cancer would be to aggressively change the political climate until it becomes too hot for even the worst Democratic time-servers to continue fellating their paymasters.

Wake up, people. This country is in BAD shape. Business as usual wont cut it and neither will the excuses for doing business as usual. Voters don't understand policy but they understand being broke and unemployed and they'll punish those in power accordingly without needing any persuasion from people like me.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on July 15, 2010 at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK

This is lip service?

"The bill authorizes regulators to impose restrictions on large, troubled financial companies, and creates a process for the government to liquidate failing companies at no cost to taxpayers, which is similar to the F.D.I.C. process for liquidating failed banks. "

Regulators would have considerable leeway to impose restrictions on the largest financial companies, which could give smaller banks competitive advantages."

If they don't do what they say they will then it's lip service but that goes for the Franken Amendment and everything else.

Posted by: woody45 on July 15, 2010 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK

Steve LaBonne, why is this country in bad shape, what would you do to fix it, and how would you implement those fixes?

Posted by: citizen_pain on July 15, 2010 at 9:17 PM | PERMALINK

The only democrat worthy of respect is Feingold. The rest are shameless sellouts.

They have some nerve calling this whitewash a "reform"

Posted by: getacleu on July 15, 2010 at 10:16 PM | PERMALINK

StevieLaDumb: The O-bots are sounding increasingly desperate these days. I guess they're starting to realize that their favorite moderate Republican president is looking more and more like a one-termer

Not sure where you're hearing the desperation; it's certainly not on Benen's site and other reality-based blogs. I and other Dems I know are very confident that Obama will win another term, particularly because of the amazing breadth and depth of his accomplishments thus far.

I'm sure the echo chamber you live in can become confusing, but it's your ilk that thrives on paranoia, not us.

Posted by: cr on July 15, 2010 at 11:26 PM | PERMALINK

The only democrat worthy of respect is Feingold. The rest are shameless sellouts.

You should really read the NYT breakdown of this. Wall Street is not happy. I think the problem with many online progressives is they were looking for a bill that breaks the back of Wall Street just like they were looking for a health care bill that crushed the insurance industry. That was never in the cards.

Posted by: woody45 on July 16, 2010 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Three Cheers to partisan leftists!!!!

Posted by: Nutroots Lunatic on July 16, 2010 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK



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