NPR logo Barney Frank On The Finance Bill: 'In Democracies, There Are No Guarantees'


Barney Frank On The Finance Bill: 'In Democracies, There Are No Guarantees'

Barney Frank
Charles Dharapak/AP

So it sounds like the Senate is finally about to pass the big finance-overhaul bill. Here's the thing, though: Even after the bill passes, there will still be lots of fundamental, unanswered questions about how the financial world will change.

On today's podcast, we talk to a few experts to hash out some of those questions on today's podcast — and we hear from Barney Frank, the House Democrat whose name is on the bill.

We'll post the podcast later this afternoon. In the meantime, here are a few snippets from our interview with Frank:

On Congress leaving key issues to be resolved by regulators:

"If you do it too inflexibly, you're inviting the businesses to get around you. You need to give the regulators discretion. And people said, 'What's the guarantee that this discretion bodes well?' And the answer is: In democracies, there are no guarantees. Elect good people.

"Look, one of the great periods of reform in American economic history was Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson doing anti-trust, and they were very tough. And they put in good rules. But by the twenties, when the American people decided to elect Harding and Coolidge and Hoover, they weren't used well."

On what will happen to failing firms under the new bill:

"Sarah Palin was right that we have death panels, but they’re in the financial bill, not the healthcare bill. ...

"Any institution that gets so indebted that it can’t pay its own debts, the first thing that happens is it’s put into receivership and is dissolved, and then we deal with the consequences."

On the Senate's delay in passing the bill after the death of Sen. Robert Byrd:

"It's really odd that a death of a 92-year-old should have such an impact. It just shows how dysfunctional these rules are in the Senate where you need 60.

"I have this fear that one day there's going to be a fire in the Senate and there are only going to be 57 senators there and they’ll all die because they won't have 60 votes to allow themselves to leave the building."