The financial reform bill currently working its way toward President Barack Obama's desk for signing is being touted as the biggest overhaul of the banking and investment sectors since the Great Depression.
But the new regs won't be any more effective than the ones they replace in fixing anything or preventing the next major panic for at least three reasons.
1. New Watchdog, Old Tricks
They create a new watchdog consumer agency designed to protect consumers from their own supposed stupidity. You'll now be facing fewer choices when it comes to getting credit cards, loans, and doing other basic financial transactions.
2. Never Too Big To Fail
They replace "Too Big to Fail" with... "Too Big to Fail." One of the reasons why major financial institutions played Russian Roulette with the economy was because they were betting they would get bailed out. Which is precisely what happened. The new rules codify the idea that the government will make sure certain institutions can never fail. And if you think the big boys won't game that system, then you don't understand how well Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, et al have come through the current meltdown.
3. Housing Bubble Trouble
The financial crisis was set into motion by government policies that encouraged people to buy homes they couldn't afford at prices that were unsustainable. Between desperate attempts to keep people in houses and to keep interest rates below an effective rate of zero, the government continues to pour more money down the same rathole.
Markets work best when the risk and reward incentives are clear cut. When investors know they really can lose it all, they act responsibly with their money. If regulators think they can create a system that cushions us from bad decisions and doesn't encourage bad behavior, it's a delusion we'll all be paying for for a very long time.
Approximately 2 minutes. Produced by Meredith Bragg and Nick Gillespie, who also hosts.