By Simon Johnson
The financial reform legislation currently heading into a June Senate-House conference will, at best, do little to affect the incentives and beliefs at the heart of the largest banks on Wall Street. Serious attempts to strengthen the bill through amendment – such as Brown-Kaufman and Merkley-Levin – were either shot down on the floor of the Senate or, when their prospects seemed stronger, not allowed to come to a vote.
Senator Blanche Lincoln is holding the Alamo with regard to reining in the big broker-dealers in derivatives. But these same people are bringing to bear one of the most intensely focused lobbying campaigns of recent years, bent on killing her provisions (or weakening them beyond recognition). All the early indications are that the lobbyists, once again, will prevail.
At one level, Robert Kaiser nailed this topic in his recent book, “So Damn Much Money: The Triumph of Lobbying and the Corrosion of American Government.” Elections have become more expensive, with most of the funding provided by special interests. You can argue about which is the chicken and which is the egg, but the basic facts are inescapable. Continue reading