In England, if you are the candidate for prime minister, and your party wins the majority of seats in the House of Commons on Wednesday, you are the prime minister on Thursday or Friday and you run the whole government.
But in America, at any given time, we are governed by the product of three elections. You have senators who are elected in 2006, a president from 2008, representatives from 2010.
Now the public rarely changes its verdict as radically as it did between 2008 and 2010.
The gridlock is a result of the voting public in America drastically changing its mind and electing Barack Obama and Democrats in 2008 and then the most right-wing faction in American history to control a party in 2010.
That's where the gridlock came from.
Is this something that changes on its own?
I think it's going to change. You have people now that don't believe in governance in charge of one chunk of the government. But I urge people. Go back: read [former Treasury Secretary] Hank Paulson's book.
You had two years of a Bush presidency and Democratic control of Congress and there was a great deal of cooperation over the economic crisis.
There is nothing institutional and permanent. There is this overlap problem but it's a combination of three sets of elections and the public making a drastic shift between 2008 and 2010.
You have a real passion for banking and housing issues. What started that?
It started out with housing. I care a lot about poor people.
My passion has been to end discrimination, protect freedom of expression — promote freedom in general, like marijuana and gambling — and keep people from being too poor.
So I worked in the legislature.
When I got to Congress, Tip [O'Neill] was very careful to make sure that we had Massachusetts people on all the important committees. So when I got there, we had people on Appropriations, Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, but nobody on Banking.
And I said, "Okay, that's what I want to do" and called Tip. But I went onto banking to do housing.
For years, I was one of the few that would pass up the capital markets subcommittee. I was never that involved, including with Fannie and Freddie — that was in the capital markets subcommittee.
I didn't really have an interest in that. I had very little to do with Sarbanes-Oxley. I was No. 2 on the committee, I just followed [former Rep.] John LaFalce on that.
Then I became ranking member. As ranking member, I had to take on that activity. But even at first as ranking member, I was spending most of my time on housing.
My involvement with the financial markets came with the crisis.
In 2006, Paulson calls me and says, "You guys are probably going to be in charge, we have some serious issues here."
Prior to Dodd-Frank and Tarp, what is your biggest banking accomplishment?
It's low-income housing. Charlie Rangel and I — this goes back to 1986 — the creation of the low-income housing tax credit program. The single most important source of affordable housing and very much a public-private thing.
The second action I care about is trying to make the international financial institutions more concerned with equity.
The World Bank has something called the Doing Business Report, in which the more you screwed your workers, the better you were treated. Saudi Arabia would come out better than Sweden. And we got that changed. Literally, you got a negative if you had vacation days.