They say true compromise is achieved when nobody’s happy. In the case of financial regulatory reform, that doesn’t mean that nobody’s laughing.
Long-time observers of congressional wrangling may see the compromises struck thus far in the regulatory reform effort as par for the course: The Obama administration’s proposed consumer financial protection agency looks less menacing now than it did before the House Financial Services Committee marked it up and stripped some of its powers away. In the derivatives debate, industry advocates have managed to convince lawmakers to include significant loopholes in new clearing and exchange trading requirements. And who knows what the imposing systemic risk authorities will look like after lawmakers are through picking away at them.
But with or without an insiders’ veteran cynicism, it’s fair to say that the momentous regulatory change politicians promised in the wake of the financial crisis has shrunk to a more earthly size, a size that’s no longer too large for Comedy Central’s fake news program, “The Daily Show,” to sink its teeth into.
“It’s kind of like, ‘We’re going to cut down on robberies; from now on it’s only what you can carry,’ ” John Stewart, the program’s host, said last night.
In a segment with the comedian John Hodgman, “The Daily Show” offered its caustic take on the effectiveness of new regulation. “You get the sense that they want to preserve as many loopholes as possible,” Stewart said to Hodgman. “Are we going to see any real, meaningful changes?”
“I’m here to reassure you and the American people that the answer is, ‘Of course not,’ ” Hodgman replied. “We’re never going to stop bankers and CEOs from finding every possible way to take our money; that’s capitalism. We can, however, reform how people feel about it.”
Hodgman went on to introduce the “Angry Mob Platinum Diamond Card, a credit card for a post-bailout economy.”
The new credit card would let consumers take out their rage against high-earning bank chief executives without actually changing the rules for credit cards. “Now you can earn valuable ‘pitchfork points’ on every dollar spent,” Hodgman said. “Cash them in for real acts of bloody retribution against your greedy corporate overlords. Five thousands points gets you tickets to a public flogging. Ten thousand earns you the right to pour deadly bees on a CEO’s head.”
Hodgman offered Stewart the card at “a preferred introductory rate of 32%.”
The macabre segment’s bottom line seemed to say that nothing happening in Washington will be enough to change the fundamental dynamic that led to the financial crisis and subsequent bailout. Wall Street’s gains are still being privatized while its losses remain in public hands.