By Matthew Rothschild on March 16, 2010

It’s been more than a year and a half since Lehman Brothers went bust and the entire edifice of Wall Street came tumbling down, only to be put back together by trillions of taxpayer dollars.

And still, to this day, Congress hasn’t passed any financial reform.

On Monday, Chris Dodd finally unveiled the Democrats’ Senate bill. Like the House bill, it at least does something to address the problems that brought this terrible recession upon us, like creating a Consumer Protection Financial Bureau to increase regulation.

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But it’s not nearly enough.

That bureau, in the Senate version, doesn’t have sufficient independent power, for one thing.

Plus, neither the House bill nor the Senate bill breaks up the big banks that are “too big to fail.”

Neither the House bill nor the Senate bill would make sure that all the derivatives and all the swaps and all the other arcane instruments the banks have been playing with would now be regulated.

Neither the House bill nor the Senate bill would reinstate Glass-Steagall, the New Deal law that built a wall between commercial banking and investment banking.

And neither the House bill nor the Senate bill would substantially improve on the way the Federal Reserve operates, much less bring it under democratic control.

Dodd’s bill does have some advantages over the House bill. It “restricts banks from proprietary trading and investing in or owning hedge funds and private equity funds,” the New York Times notes, whereas the House bill does none of that.

And the Senate bill would at least have the President appoint the head of the New York Fed, instead of letting the bankers on the board of directors of the New York Fed do it.

But given the colossal damage the big banks have wreaked, and the systemic flaws this scandal has exposed, Congress is not responding with the requisite vigor.

It’s amazing that the big banks have skated free for so long, and it looks like they’ll be able to keep on gliding, even after all their destructiveness.

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine. To subscribe for just $14.97 a year, just click here.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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