NPR logo Morning Report: The Battle Begins Over The Size Of Banks

Morning Report: The Battle Begins Over The Size Of Banks

Later today, President Obama is expected to announce a radical new approach to the regulation of very large banks. In short, he's adopting the approach Paul Volcker has been calling for. There will be some sort of limit imposed on the size of banks and banks will not be able to make bets with their own deposits as freely as they have been.

We are obsessively reading everything we can about the announcement. Alex is sitting next to me trying to reach someone on Volcker's advisory team and some proprietary traders at big banks, to understand better what they do and what these changes will mean.

We don't know how much we'll learn at today's announcement. I'll say that, after a couple years of covering this, it is way, way, way too early to have any sense of what this means.

Remember: most of what the President will propose has to go through Congress. And Congress has not shown much willingness to take on the hardest questions in bank regulation.

It seemed clear, before today, that the political status quo was something like this: there is a broad desire in America for serious bank reform but just about nobody knows what that would mean. So, Congress has been able to talk tough and legislate softly. Has the basic politics changed? Has the public become more angry? Have the pro-consumer activists become more organized? Did Paul Volcker simply convince the President? Or will this be more tough talk followed by mild tweaks?

As with everything to do with banking law, minor tweaks in legislative language can mean the difference between something that causes real pain to banks and something that helps them make more money.

Right now: we're mostly just scratching our heads and eagerly waiting to hear the details.

Other things going on here: I just finished a story for This American Life that will air this weekend (probably) about the very cool history of underwater archaeology and a man who spent his entire life studying one Byzantine shipwreck.

Chana and David are in Kansas City looking into buying a toxic asset.

Alex is hard at work on a very cool story about the inner-workings of banks during the crisis.

We are all studying Haiti.