The US economy is sickly, but the mood of impending doom has lifted. The response of US and other authorities to the emergency is unfinished business and needs continuing attention – but in 2010, if the crisis continues to ease, the danger is that politicians will relax and minds will wander from the need for new financial rules.
The next model of US financial regulation is unclear. The House of Representatives has passed a bill concentrating on regulatory structure: that is, on which regulators are responsible for what. What the Senate will do is anybody’s guess. Important as the regulatory organisation chart may be, however, it is not the key thing. The rules regulators apply are what matter.
The need for better rules is greater now than before the crisis. Critics of the US government say its response has made another financial collapse more likely – and they have a point. They worry about institutions that are too big to fail. The authorities encouraged consolidation as a way to restore short-term stability, but at what cost in the longer term? Attacking this concentration, critics say, is crucial.
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