The landmark piece of legislation that President Obama signed into law yesterday - The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, 2010 - was a massive lift for all concerned. Students of governance always say that a crisis is one of the best opportunities for reform, yet the fact of the global financial crisis has not made the reform of financial services an easy lift in any country. And we all know why: banks are rich and they can hire the best lobbyists either to block or water down the reform. So, the reform process has been tough, but now we have the historic legislation.
Last Thursday night, Charlie Rose interviewed Barney Frank, the Chair of the Financial Services Committee of the US House of Representatives. Frank, together with Senator Dodd, his opposite number in the Senate, shepherded the new law through Congress over many tough months. Towards the end of the interview, Rose asked him to reflect on the lessons of the reform process itself. What had he learned? You might be surprised by one of the things he said; but, then, if you have been reading this blog, you might not be.
Here is what he said:
"The other thing I learned, I thought I knew it but I’ve been able to tell others - public opinion is powerful. We got a better bill this year than I had out of the committee last year because last year we were spending all the time in healthcare and there was no focus on this bill in the general public. So the big interests won more of the fights than I wanted them to.
This year with healthcare having been done, all of this happened in the public arena and we got a stronger bill at every point, a stronger bill in the Senate, so it does reinforce my view if we can get public opinion focused, it will overcome the power of big money.”
Foto: Flickr user asterix611