You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Joe Nocera On The Obama Reform Package

He shares my queasiness about the absence of structural reform--and is probably less comforted by some of the steps I see as improvements. He also has some concrete ideas about what structural reform should look like, beyond doing something about bigness. This proposal in particular is a very good idea:

In a recent speech in China, the former Federal Reserve chairman — and current Obama adviser — Paul Volcker called on the government to limit the functions of any financial institution, like the big banks, that will always be reliant on the taxpayer should they get into trouble. Why, for instance, should they be allowed to trade for their own account — reaping huge profits and bonuses if they succeed — if the government has to bail them out if they make big mistakes, Mr. Volcker asked.

Hear, hear.

I've been writing this week about how the financial reform package reflects (or doesn't) Obama's governing style. You see in yesterday's New York Times, for example, how the administration worked hard to solicit a wide range of opinion, even provoking disagreement among different camps. This is generally a desirable approach. But the question in this case is whether it's possible to really fix the financial system with big financial institutions at the table, even if, to paraphrase Obama, they don't own all the seats. As Nocera points out, to succeed here you may just have to truly piss Wall Street off, and the initial proposal doesn't quite go there.

--Noam Scheiber