Real Clear Markets

Obama's SOTU Should Promote a Continued Path to Financial Reform

In tonight's State of the Union, President Obama should take the opportunity to remind the country of the need to stay on the path of financial reform. A collective amnesia appears to be descending on Washington-and on major financial capitals around the world-about the causes and consequences of the financial crisis. The financial crisis of 2008 crushed the American economy, cost millions of Americans their jobs and their homes, shuttered American businesses, and wiped out family savings. We're still suffering from those effects.

The President's financial reform law, enacted in 2010 against massive opposition from Wall Street and most Republicans, laid a firm foundation for a more resilient financial sector, one that works for American families, instead of exposing us all to needless risk and cost.

A new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been built from scratch. New rules governing derivatives transactions have largely been proposed. A resolution authority and improvements to supervision have been put in place. The largest firms have to hold a lot more equity capital. The U.S. financial system is more resilient than it was four years ago.

But nearly three years later, there's still much work to do to turn that law into reality.

And the financial sector did not leave the battlefield after their defeats in 2010. Far from it. The brutal fight over financial reform wages on, and there is a serious risk that financial sector lobbying and lawsuits will further weaken the resolve for reform. Aggressive lawsuits are being used to try to unseat the consumer bureau director, block shareholder rights, roll back protections against abuse in the derivatives market, and slow down reform. Many Republicans in Congress have blocked nominees to key posts or used the appropriations process to undermine enforcement of financial laws.

To be clear: the financial system is safer, consumers and investors better protected, and taxpayers more insulated, than they were four years ago-by a lot. But that is not enough.

In the next four years, it will be critical to stay on the path of reform.