The Good Ideas That Weren't Included in the Financial Reform Bill

Democrats just voted to advance financial regulatory reform today, thanks in part to the Tea Party's ex-boyfriend, Scott Brown. Hippie Senators Russ Feingold and Maria Cantwell refused to vote yea. So, is it a good bill?

The motion to end debate passed 60-40, with Republicans Scott Brown, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins all voting "yea."

Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to push the bill through the Senate as fast as possible, because the longer the Senate debates the bill, the more time Republicans have to tell outright lies about how the bill will literally bail out every Mosque at Ground Zero, or whatever, which is what happened to the health-care reform bill. This is the greatest deliberative body in the world, folks!

Politically, that makes sense. But moving the thing through quickly has its consequences, which are mainly that the Senate doesn't get to vote on a bunch of amendments that would do stuff like "protect consumers" and "regulate banks strictly" and other Marxist-type plots. This is Russ Feingold's point! A quick bill isn't as good, unless you are a bank, in which case, I hope you are enjoying my money.

Some of the interesting stuff that was proposed, and now won't happen, because we are broken:

  • Sen. Tom Harkin's proposal to cap ATM fees at 50 cents. Is there anything more annoying on the entire planet than having to spend six bucks to take cash out of an ATM because the dumb bar you go to is all "cash only"? No, there is nothing more annoying. Too bad Harkin's proposal, which would cap that fee at 50 cents, will never got a vote. Why? Maybe because Ben Nelson, an important person in charge of important things, has never used an ATM. He does "know about the holograms," though (he means bar codes). Glad he just voted on financial reform!

  • Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse's amendment to let states regulate credit cards. This was a great amendment that would have helped prevent credit card companies from hiding their fees. The Senate voted it down. All I can really say about this one is summed up in this Washington Post quote: "The provision, rejected 60 to 35, had won praise from consumer advocates but encountered vehement opposition from the banking industry." Yep.

  • Sen. Maria Cantwell and Sen. John McCain's proposal to reinstate the wall between investment and commercial banking. Is this a good idea? Reasonable people disagree! But we had this bad boy in place until 1999 (it was called Glass-Steagall), and managed to avoid a crisis this big, so it's worth considering. Too bad we won't ever get a chance to debate it like reasonable people on the Senate floor, since Harry Reid won't let it come to a vote. (Like reasonable debate on the Senate floor is anything but a pipe dream anyway!)

  • Sen. Judd Gregg's amendment to stop the federal government from bailing out insolvent states and municipalities. Just kidding! This was a terrible amendment. Thank God it failed.

And that doesn't even begin to cover the "hard economics stuff" like bank leverage and so-called "too big to fail" institutions. Check out more amendments here .

The Upshot: We will get some semblance of financial regulatory reform, that is stronger than we thought it would be, but still not really strong enough to get rid of all the bankers in New York and make the city fun again.

If you want to read more about the bill, it's summarized here.

[NYT; OpenCongress; photo via Getty]