You’d almost think the Republicans want the banks to melt down again. Bit by bit, they’ve been gutting the Dodd-Frank Act. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been put on ice, placed in the hands of one of its sworn enemies, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney.
Giving banks free rein to screw consumers is one thing. Letting banks play roulette with the entire economy is something else. But the latest bad idea from the Comptroller of the Currency, the agency that regulates national banks, and the Federal Reserve, goes at the heart of the abuses that Dodd-Frank sought to remedy.
At the core of the financial crisis of 2008 was the tendency of banks to make increasingly risky bets, where the potential loss far exceeded their own capital. If all the bets went bad, all the banks would be insolvent. That’s what happened in the fall of 2008, and it took a massive government bailout to keep the banking collapse from taking down the rest of the economy.
Now the Fed and the Comptroller want to allow banks to have larger multiples of debt to capital. One of the core reforms of Dodd-Frank was to limit excess bank leverage. It’s not as if these strictures are draconian—banks today need to keep only six cents capital for every 94 cents they lend out.
But the bankers have lobbied the administration for even more generous rules, and the administration seems inclined to do their bidding. Like the tax cut, these policy changes have nothing to do with making the economy more efficient. They are entirely about rewarding the already rich, and increasing risks for the rest of us.
This proposal is so perverse that two Republican regulatory officials, one former head of the FDIC and the current vice chairman, wrote an op-ed piece that The Wall Street Journal published warning against it.
Tom Hoenig and Sheila Bair wrote: “These proposals would weaken system resiliency either to benefit shareholder distributions or to allow the eight largest banks to become even bigger by taking on more leverage and more risk.”
You get the sense that the Trump crowd knows their days are numbered—and want to deliver everything that’s not nailed down to their corporate allies before they are tossed out.