Political Animal


March 04, 2013 9:03 AM How Conservatives Control Government’s Fine Print: Cover Package of the Latest Washington Monthly

By Paul Glastris

Forget the sequester, gun control and immigration. The most consequential challenge of Barack Obama’s second term will be to keep conservatives from undermining his landmark first term achievements, which, truth be told, dwarf anything he’s likely to get out of Congress going forward.

The Dodd-Frank reform law, for all its flaws, is a massive and potentially game-changing piece of legislation that could determine whether or not we go through another financial meltdown. But a law is just words on paper until agencies write regulations to carry it out. Two-thirds of Dodd-Frank’s regulations have yet to be finalized. So far, as Haley Sweetland Edwards reports in the latest issue of the Washington Monthly, Wall Street lobbyists, assisted by conservative judges, have succeeded in getting some of the law’s key regulations weakened, delayed or thrown out altogether.

Obamacare, if it can be made to work, will deliver health care to 27 million uninsured Americans and begin the task of reigning in health care costs. But as Phillip Longman explains, Republicans, using fear of “death panels,” got language inserted into the law that forbids government from taking cost-effectiveness into account when considering how to spend our health care dollars. In fact, it even prohibits government research into how different medications and procedures affect a patients’ quality of life, making it extraordinarily difficult for Obamacare to “bend the curve” of health care costs while improving quality.

Of course, Obamacare can be amended and Dodd-Frank’s rulemaking defended, but first, Americans have got to pay attention.

Read the cover package and the entire March/April 2013 issue of the Washington Monthly here.

Paul Glastris is the editor in chief of the Washington Monthly.


  • Bo on March 04, 2013 9:35 AM:

    Pet-peeve warning!
    The correct phrase is "reining in" -- not "reigning in", Paul.

  • boatboy_srq on March 04, 2013 9:47 AM:

    With the sequester, we're about to get a helping of the "tire rims and anthrax" Benen so accurately predicted the GOTea wanted for dinner.

    Whatever progressive disappointment may be found over BHO's administration, one does have to remind oneself that we've seen the least constructive opposition since 1860: the GOTea is fundamentally opposed to getting anything done, even when what's done is exactly what they said they wanted even minutes before it's enacted (Cap and Trade, individual mandate, spending reductions, financial sector reform and recovery, immigration enforcement, etc etc). The number of adults in Congress behaving like spoiled four-year-olds, who aren't even Veruca-Salt-grade momentarily pleased when they get what they say they want, is appalling.

    The next four years are likely to be part holding action to preserve the gains made already, and part reenergizing the not-certifiably-b@tsh!t-crazy electorate to put some adults in Congress. "Progress," under those conditions, may well have to wait for 2016 - or the next "secession" movement, at which point the US can revisit whether states can leave the Union, under what circumstances, and whether the newly-independent nations can be held accountable for all the US' expenditures within their borders.

  • emjayay on March 04, 2013 10:47 AM:

    Bo: Would that be more of a metaphor about pulling back on the ropes connected to the horses and slowing them down, as opposed to doing something to control the actions of a monarch? Ohhhh, I get it. Actually I already did.

  • emjayay on March 04, 2013 11:10 AM:

    Both Dodd-Frank and ACA share the same basic problem: both are revisions and rules about existing systems, not fundamental change. Maybe that's all that was possible in each case. Maybe not (particularly in the case of Dodd-Frank).

    The ACA addresses mainly funding of healthcare, with extensions of existing government programs and a million needed new rules. It isn't Medicare for all (Canada-like) or National Health (UK and Vetrans Admin) or even Kaiser Permanente type real HMO's (mini National Healths) for all, or whatever they do in all those other countries. Dodd-Frank is similar: no anti-trust type regs on big banks, no arbitrary Glass–Steagall type act. Just a million regulations and mechanisms.

    Neither address the root causes of the problems. Both are obviously very vulnerable to enormous industy lobbying, particularly from the enormous financial industry. Which removes a huge amount of money from the economy for not much utility and wants to keep it that way.

    Another angle would be serious and extreme measures to address the other side of the problem: Enormous corporate lobbying and huge corporate and rich people political contributions. Consitutional problems with doing either apparently. Not that the guys who hammered our the Constituion had any idea of how these things would turn out.

    Also they weren't too up on firearm technology past muskets.