Unless your business model depends on bilking people, there is little to fear from these new rules.-- BARACK OBAMAInevitable? I can't believe that I wrote that headline, but President Obama appears to be on the brink of pulling off the most comprehensive reform of the financial industry since the Great Depression and may do so with substantial Republican support.
What makes this all the more stunning is that this industry is so vast, accounting for nearly half of all corporate profits, and so influential, wielding enormous influence on both sides of the aisle, and so adamantly opposed to reform that only a few weeks ago the legislation appeared likely to founder or result in toothless new regulations that the industry would motor around en route to more trickery, deceit and obscene profits.
But a funny thing happened on the way to foundering and failure:
* Americans, sick and tired of the financial industry's assault on Main Street, overwhelmingly support reform and are repulsed by Republican arguments that the White House is trying to make Wall Street look bad.
* Obama, with the wind at his back following the passage of health-care reform and a slew of lesser initiatives, is willing to go for broke.
* The news media, accustomed to swallowing Republican talking points hook, line and sinker, uncharacteristically has begun holding them accountable.
* And Republicans who threatened to filibuster while lying through their teeth about reform would do, realize that they are hanging themselves out to dry in the run-up to mid-term elections.
The transformation of Mitch McConnell is especially stunning.
The minority leader, fresh off of a closed-door meeting with derivatives traders and other industry bigs, had claimed that reform would be a socialist takeover and not protection against predatory and abusive banking practices, but seems to have toned down his rhetoric after the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader, his home-state paper, chastised him for "unabashedly courting Wall Street bankers for political money."
Obama spent the first year of his administration trying to repair the damage wrought over the last eight years. Appointing Wall Street insiders to run the economy was not among his swiftest moves. Nor does the financial reform bill go far enough. But at least he now has the opportunity to begin fixing things that were broken long before Bush and Cheney drove the national car into a ditch.
TOONS (Top to bottom): Tom Toles, Bruce Beattie,
Chris Britt, Gary Varvel and Lisa Benson