It’s the debate of the moment in the Democratic Party today. The Glass-Steagall Act which separated commercial and investment banking went from being something no one was against from 1933-1999, then something no one was for circa 1999-2014, and now is finally part of a vigorous debate. On the one side is the “Break up the big banks!” call from the Sanders wing and on the other is the much smaller “Yes, but it’s way more complicated than that!” voice of the establishment, usually Hillary Clinton.
It was the hottest topic at the last Democratic Debate on 13 October and it continues today. Your stand on it probably identifies who you back for president as well as your status in the Democratic Party. But is it worth all the hoopla?
Call me a pale male establishment type, but this is not a good argument.
Tuesday is scheduled to be the day that everything changes. Not everything, really, but it’s the day that the “Volcker Rule” will finally go into effect. “Leave the capital markets to their own devices without any expectation of government protection and keep the existing safety net for the commercial banking system,” Volcker said in 2009. In practice, this means that commercial banking, with deposits backed by the FDIC, have to be separated from stock trading and similar activities.
It’s not the Glass-Steagall Act, which required completely separate kinds of banks operating as different companies to perform the different kinds of investing. But it’s not bad. And if it sounds simple in principle the regulation authorized by Dodd-Frank takes 800 pages. Four years from its proposal and 3 years from its passage, it’s ready to roll out. How will it go?