Deregulating (and misregulating) Wall Street has been done before with disastrous consequences. The repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 for example was a significant factor in causing the global economic collapse of 2008. Looking back further in the 20th century, it was the Republican party that controlled Congress and the White House in the 1920s before the Great Depression. That should cause people to be aware of what might happen soon.
WITH THE GOP’S tax plan moving ahead and the Obamacare fight in the rearview mirror, Republicans in Congress are setting their sights next on deregulating Wall Street.
But unlike the previous battles, they can count on Democratic help in this fight.
They will also face an invigorated populist wing of the party. During the debate over whether to create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Elizabeth Warren, not yet a senator, famously said at a crucial momentthat her first choice was a strong agency, and her second was “no agency at all and plenty of blood and teeth left on the floor.”
In all, the bill removes enhanced supervision from 25 banks that control $3.5 trillion in assets and received $48 billion in taxpayer bailouts, according to an analysis from Public Citizen.
S.2155 also changes stress tests — which check if banks can manage hazardous scenarios — for all banks, making them “periodic” (which could mean whatever regulators want it to mean, staffers say) instead of annual. So JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America, along with literally every big bank in the country, recipients of hundreds of billions of dollars in bailouts, get assistance in this “small bank” relief bill. The stress test itself would change — at the discretion of President Donald Trump’s deregulatory army — for large regional firms.
Next, the bill rolls back protections on the mortgage market, by tweaking “safe harbor” and “qualified mortgage” provisions in ways that would allow small lenders to sell high-cost, adjustable-rate mortgages and avoid accountability in court for wrongful foreclosures. Just because a no-documentation or interest-only mortgage comes from a community bank doesn’t make it a safe financial product.
The bill also eliminates the need for appraisals in certain rural areas, creating incentives to cheat homebuyers; exempts sellers of manufactured homes like trailers from mortgage rules, which benefits the dominant player in that space, Warren Buffett’s conglomerateBerkshire Hathaway; and restricts data collection about mortgage lending that could help regulators spot the next crisis.
Finally, there’s no “consumer protection” worthy of the name in the bill. The tentpole consumer piece is a watered-down version of a recent billfrom Warren that would offer consumers stung by data breaches at credit reporting agencies like Equifax one free credit freeze and unfreeze every year. Warren’s bill would have made all credit freezes free. Even Equifax eventually offered a lifetime credit freeze, more than the authors of S.2155. And the measure preempts states from giving more generous terms to its citizens.