Senate Passes Financial “Reform” Bill, 59-39; Will Wipe Out Jobs and Increase Credit Card Costs

The Senate has just passed a 1,500 page financial “reform” bill that deliberately leaves unreformed the corrupt mortgage giants that spawned the financial crisis–while wiping out jobs and potentially driving up fees for many credit cardholders.

In a party-line vote, Senate Democrats earlier blocked any reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the corrupt, government-sponsored mortgage giants that even Obama administration officials admit were at the “core” of “what went wrong” in the financial crisis.

(Obama received $125,000 in contributions from these mortgage giants as a Senator, second only to the corrupt Senator Chris Dodd, who is retiring this year due to his financial scandals, yet is the chief drafter of the financial “reform” bill.)

Business groups warn that the new rules will wipe out jobs and slow the economic recovery. “If you want to drive capital out of the United States, this is your bill,” said Thomas Donohue, president and CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce.

The bill also increases banks’ costs by restricting the ability of banks to enter into contracts charging retailers for the convenience of using credit or debit cards to collect payment from customers.  When Australia did this credit card holders suffered, as banks passed on the increased costs to them by hiking annual fees and getting rid of cash-back, rebate, and rewards programs.  (Ironically, recent interest rate hikes are partly the product of a law recently passed by Congress, the CARD Act, which forces responsible people to bear the costs of irresponsible borrowers.)

In the Wall Street Journal, Professor Todd Zywicki notes that such provisions harm consumers: “This is exactly what happened when Australian regulators imposed price controls on interchange fees in 2003: Annual fees increased an average of 22% on standard credit cards and annual fees for rewards cards increased by 47%-77%. Card issuers also reduced the generosity of their reward programs.”

The so-called financial “reform” bill would also give government officials the ability to nationalize businesses that they claim are at risk of failing — and block meaningful judicial review of such seizures by shareholders alleging violations of their constitutional rights.  (That will increase the ability of presidents to shake down businesses for donations to their political allies, since a business in danger of being seized by the government will try to curry favor with government officials.)  The bill’s House architect, Barney Frank, boasts that it will create “death panels” for American companies (this is the same Barney Frank who for years blocked any reform of the corrupt mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac).

Mortgage giant Fannie Mae is getting another $8.4 billion in federal bailout money, after the Obama administration earlier lifted a $400 billion limit on bailouts for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two mortgage giants known as the Government-Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs).  The other GSE, Freddie Mac, is getting $10.6 billion more in bailouts.  Soon, they will be receiving much more: “Late last year, the Obama administration pledged to cover unlimited losses through 2012 for Freddie and Fannie,” reports the New York Times.

At the direction of the Obama administration, Freddie Mac ran up more than $30 billion in losses to bail out mortgage borrowers, some of whom have high incomes.  Federal regulators sought to make Freddie Mac hide the resulting losses from the SEC and the public.)  By contrast, the Republican alternative, rejected by the Senate, aimed “to wind down, and break up” the mortgage giants and “limit taxpayer exposure” to their losses.

The Obama Administration showered the mortgage giants’ executives with $42 million in compensation.

Fannie and Freddie helped spawn the mortgage crisis by acting as loan toilets, buying up risky mortgages and thus creating an artificial market for junk.  “From the time Fannie and Freddie began buying risky loans as early as 1993, they routinely misrepresented the mortgages they were acquiring, reporting them as prime when they had characteristics that made them clearly subprime.”  They paid their CEOs millions, and engaged in massive accounting fraud — $6.3 billion at Fannie Mae alone — to increase the size of their managers’ bonuses.  As Government-Sponsored Enterprises, they were exempt from the capital requirements that apply to private banks, so they did not have enough reserves to cover their losses when their mortgages started defaulting.

Banking expert Peter Wallison, who warned for years about the risky practices of Fannie and Freddie, said the financial “reform” bill would lead to “bailouts forever,” contrary to Obama’s claims.

Government pressure on banks to make loans in economically-depressed neighborhoods was a major cause of the mortgage crisis.  That pressure will increase under the financial “reform” legislation.  Legislators approved Obama’s proposal to create a new consumer “protection” agency.  But it may harm rather than help consumers.  Why?  “The agency would be in charge of enforcing the Community Reinvestment Act, a law that prods banks to make loans in low-income communities.”  It would do so without regard for banks’ financial safety and soundness, even though the Community Reinvestment Act was a key contributor to the financial crisis.