Where’s the sunlight in Dodd-Frank bill?

Sarah Field Contributor
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On Friday, we found out that House and Senate conferees closed a marathon session with an early-morning announcement that a deal had been reached on the Dodd-Frank Financial Overhaul bill. The mainstream media, of course, breathlessly applauded Congress for making this deal and “fixing” our financial woes.

At 2,000 pages, I prepared myself for a long weekend of reading complex statutory language. After all, I heard that Barney Frank wanted the House of Representatives to vote on the bill by Tuesday, so that President Obama could sign it by July 4. Clearly, time was of the essence.

The only obstacle? I couldn’t find a copy of the bill.


It’s not just that I was camped out by the lakeshore in the North Woods. I used every resource possible to find a copy of the bill; I called friends in Washington, searched endlessly through online sources, and even talked to several people who had reached out as constituents to their elected officials. But, in all these instances, the message was consistent: “the final bill is so full of changes that it will take several days for Congress to even write up the bill.”

Several days? This would be of no consequence if we had a week or two to review the bill once it is published. But, as the news trickled in, I realized that Congress and the Obama administration had absolutely no intention of giving us –or even other Members of Congress—adequate time to read the bill before a Tuesday vote. Like health care, cap and trade, and other major power grabs, this behind-closed-doors process draws a stark contrast with then-candidate Obama’s “Sunlight before Signing” initiative, which promised to promote government transparency and accountability.

The bill wasn’t even available for anyone to read until Sunday morning (available here at http://www.libertycentral.org/) and Sen. Dodd, channeling Speaker Pelosi’s Obamacare remarks, actually said that “[n]o one will know until this is actually in place how it works.”

Without sufficient time to read the bill thoroughly, people have started to piece together what the final version contains. Apparently, it does absolutely nothing to solve the root of our financial crisis. The nuances behind the crisis are complex, but one thing that we all understand is that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac gave banks an incentive to loan money to people with no ability to pay back the money. The bill does absolutely nothing to solve this problem and, instead, props up Fannie and Freddie, encouraging lenders to continue giving risky loans.

The bill also creates an entirely new federal bureaucracy within the Federal Reserve: a consumer “protection” agency. This agency would have the ability to investigate and enforce regulations for any large company that sells consumer financial products or services, including credit cards, mortgages, and other loans. However, in another example of special interest group favoritism, auto dealers are completely exempt from the new agency’s oversight.

The Dodd-Frank bill also gives the government power to break-up “failing” companies without defining what qualifies as “failing” — giving the Federal Government a frighteningly broad power to demolish companies competing in the free market. This amorphous language is sadly reminiscent of what we just went through with Obamacare.

Even more frightening, the bill’s impact will be felt far beyond Wall Street—it is going to make bank services more expensive for all of us. Generally, the bill sets up strict rules and increases operating costs for banks and other financial institution, which means that anyone with a bank account will have to pay far more for bank services. Specifically, Washington is going to charge banks and hedge funds $19 billion in fees to pay for these new government programs and powers. This money has to come from somewhere and the American people, as bank customers, are going to pay the price tag.

Ultimately, this bill will control up to 60% of our economy by telling us what we can—and cannot—do with our money. If you think you are immune from its reaches, you’re in for a rude awakening. It’s going to affect every single person with a bank account or a credit card.

President Obama wants to sign this legislation by July 4, pressing Congress to vote “yes” before America—and even Members of Congress—has adequate time to discover everything that’s in the bill. Many of the president’s supporters seem ready to pass this power grab without any respect for transparency or accountability, just as they did with stimulus, health care, and cap and trade.

If Congress and the Obama administration are going to take over our economy, they should, at the very least, give the American people ample time to read the bill.

After all, this is what Candidate Obama promised.

Sarah Field is the Director of Policy and General Counsel of Liberty Central, Inc., a non-profit organization whose primary objective is to harness the power of citizen voices, inform everyday Americans with knowledge, and activate them to preserve liberty.