U.S. PIRG kicks off Huffington Post series on financial reform

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) launched its new, regular Huffington Post blog column, In the Public Interest, on Monday December 7th with an entry from Ed Mierzwinski, the organization’s veteran Consumer Program Director.
In Monday’s column, Mierzwinski writes about “four key tests” facing the House of Representatives this week, as they consider the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009. Below is a abbreviated version.
For the full column “In the Public Interest: Rein in the Financial System That Failed” click here

Four Tests for the House This Week
More than 14 months after taxpayers were forced to bail out Wall Street bankers, Congress is finally considering reforms to protect the rest of us.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the House considers the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009. It isn’t perfect, but its passage – without weakening amendments, and ideally, strengthening the amendments added – will be an important step toward preventing another financial crisis.
We can only hope it’s not too late. After all, the non-partisan Center for Responsible Lending predicts that at least nine million additional foreclosures will occur from 2009-2012.
For those of you keeping score, here are four key tests for the House of Representatives this week:

Will Congress enact a strong version of the Obama administration’s game-changer Consumer Financial Protection Agency?
The CFPA was conceptualized by Professor Elizabeth Warren. It’s backed by economists ranging from Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz (PDF) (“It will take risk out of the system”) to Moody’s Economy chief economist Mark Zandi (“an FDA for consumer products”).
Will Congress regulate the shadow markets?
Will Congress finally put cops on the beat in all the unregulated derivative, hedge fund, and private equity shadow markets? AIG once reigned as king of the derivatives called “credit default swaps.” Bad bets on these swaps led to the collapse of the financial system and the loss – for workers, homeowners, small investors and other retirees – of millions of jobs and trillions of dollars of value in their homes, 401-Ks, pension funds and even their children’s 529 college funds.
Will Congress audit the Fed?
Will Congress take unchecked power from the Federal Reserve, which ignored the growth of both the housing bubble and the predatory lending that went with it? Will it enact the “audit the Fed” reforms bill that has over 300 co-sponsors (HR 1207)?
Will Congress end the too-big-to-fail system that led to taxpayer-funded TARP bailouts?
Right now, Wall Street banks, their executives and shareholders don’t have to worry about taking stupid risks, because they can rely on the government to bail them out. They’re supposedly too important to the economy or “too big to fail.” Even though banks aren’t back to making loans, they’re already back to paying the big fat bonuses that contributed to this disastrous culture of private profits and public risk.

These reforms seem obvious to taxpayers. Not to Wall Street. They like the system that failed. It’s served them well. So, they’re trying to keep it that way. Bloomberg News reports that out of 1,537 lobbyists registered to work on financial reform issues, 1,479 are industry hired guns… gunning to save the system that failed. They outnumber consumer advocates by 25 to one.
For the full column “In the Public Interest: Rein in the Financial System That Failed” click here

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