Slate, February 19, 2020: Bloomberg should have to answer these three questions about the financial crisis
Does Mike Bloomberg really want to get tougher on Wall Street?
He says he does, I guess. This week, the former New York City mayor released a surprisingly robust collection of proposals for regulating the financial services industry, many of which have been on progressives’ wish list for a long while. Bloomberg is now officially in favor of a financial-transactions tax, which would raise some revenue and slow down high-speed trading. He wants to limit risk at big banks with higher capital requirements, stronger stress tests and a rebuilt Volcker rule. There’s good checklist of consumer protections on things like overdraft fees, debt collection and credit reporting. In total, it’s about nine pages of mainstream Democratic ideas.
But it’s a bit hard to take it all at face value for the simple reason that Bloomberg spent the vast majority of his life as a notorious Wall Street booster. He made his billions selling firms the information terminals that their traders spend all day hooked to. And after the financial crisis, he was a vocal critic of the very regulations he now claims he wants to defend and expand. He lobbied to weaken Congress’ post–financial crisis reforms in 2010 and warned lawmakers that they shouldn’t take “punitive actions” against the financial sector. He later called the Dodd-Frank Act’s rules “stupid” and suggested that they would hurt the economy by preventing banks from lending. He repeated the conservative myth that Congress had set the financial crisis in motion by forcing banks to make mortgage loans to low-income borrowers. For the entire Obama era, Bloomberg wasn’t a “moderate” on these issues. He was a fount of misguided conservative conventional wisdom.