By John Berlau
The 2,315 page Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill that President Obama will sign today should not be called "financial reform." Instead the bill, which passed the Senate 60-39 last week when Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown joined Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to grant cloture, should be called what for what it is: pages and pages of massively costly, counterproductive and possibly unconstitutional mandates on nearly every type of business except for those government-sponsored enterprises at the root of the crisis. And while the bill claims to crack down on excesses on Wall Street, its harshest impact will likely be on Main Street businesses that had nothing to do with the meltdown.
A front-page Wall Street Journal article this week noted that "far from Wall Street, President Barack Obama’s financial regulatory overhaul… will leave tracks across the wide-open landscape of American industry." The Journal notes that "the bill will touch storefront check cashiers, city governments, [and] small manufacturers."
But one thing it will leave totally untouched is the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which new research by Congress’s Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and other bodies shows was even more of a prime factor in the subprime boom than originally assumed. The Federal Housing Finance Agency now reports that Fannie and Freddie purchased 40 percent of all private-label subprime securities in 2003 and 2004. Indeed, according to Edward Pinto, housing scholar and Fannie’s former chief credit officer, millions of mortgages to borrowers with credit scores of less than 660, considered by prominent researchers to be the dividing line for subprime loans, had been labeled by Fannie and Freddie as prime going back as early as 1993.
Rather than wait for Congress’s own Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to issue its report in December to examine the role of the GSEs and other causes, Congress passed a bill that will not prevent future bubbles and imposes untold costs that will put the country in danger of slipping back into a recession.
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