February 28, 2024

Dodd-Frank Act Is a Target on G.O.P. Campaign Trail

That has not stopped Republican presidential candidates from using the Dodd-Frank Act, the sprawling regulatory effort to address the causes of the financial crisis, as their newest anti-Obama target for what ails the economy.

Republicans have repeatedly invoked the law’s 848-page girth — and its rules on, among other things, trading derivatives and swaps — as a symbol of government overreach that is killing jobs.

But in trying to turn Dodd-Frank into the new “Obamacare,” the disparaging term that opponents use to refer to the new health care law, Republicans are largely ignoring the basic trade-off that the financial law represents, supporters say.

“Dodd-Frank is adding safety margins to the banking system,” said Douglas J. Elliott, an economic studies fellow at the Brookings Institution. “That may mean somewhat fewer jobs in normal years, in exchange for the benefit of avoiding something like what we just went through in the financial crisis, which was an immense job killer.”

So far, only a small portion of the law, which was signed by the president in July 2010, has taken hold. Of the up to 400 regulations called for in the act, only about a quarter have even been written, much less approved.

Dodd-Frank aims to rein in abusive lending practices and high-risk bets on complex derivative securities that nearly drove the banking system off a cliff. It creates a bureau to protect consumers from financial fraud, cuts fees banks charge for debit-card use, and sets up a means for the government to better supervise the nation’s largest financial institutions to avoid expensive and catastrophic failures. And it calls for swap execution facilities, or exchanges on which derivatives and other complex financial instruments are traded.

Republicans say Dodd-Frank is the root of some of today’s economic problems. It has stopped banks from lending to “job creators,” they contend, and is a direct cause of high unemployment. “It created such uncertainty that the bankers, instead of making loans, pulled back,” said Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, speaking at a South Carolina rally over Labor Day weekend where he again called for the law’s repeal.

“I think part of that flows from the fact that the people who were putting that together, Dodd and Frank,” he continued, referring to Democratic lawmakers former Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut and Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, “as much as anyone I know in this country were responsible for the meltdown that we had.” 

Mr. Frank demurs.  “Their claims are literally based on nothing but misconception,” he said. “The legislation is very popular. Nobody wants to go back to totally unregulated derivatives. Nobody wants banks to go back to making loans without having to retain some of them. This is a debate that is being conducted for the right wing.”

Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, has also called for the repeal of Dodd-Frank. “We have to end it right now,” he said, on the same weekend in the same state as Mr. Romney. Newt Gingrich said it is “a devastatingly bad bill” that is “killing small banks, killing small business, killing the housing industry.”  Representative Michele Bachmann regularly reminds voters that she introduced the first Dodd-Frank repeal bill this year.

Former Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah agrees, but he wouldn’t stop there. He would also eliminate the Sarbanes-Oxley law passed in 2002, which set standards for corporate accountability in the wake of the Enron scandal.

The candidates could find that there are some political dangers to their deregulation strategy, as Republicans in Congress learned last year during the debate over the legislation. Then, opponents of measures to address the causes of the financial crisis found themselves rather easily painted as defenders of Wall Street financiers and the banking industry, rather than being on the side of borrowers and consumers. Mr. Obama has signaled recently that in the 2012 campaign he plans to portray Republicans as defending corporations and the wealthy.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=eb4d6f910b07d210bd8811b2e846f106

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