Lawmakers: translate rhetoric into real reform

Source: Allan Sloan, Washington Post (Free Registration)

Wall Street bashing is all the rage in Washington these days. That's understandable, given that financial excesses played a serious role in starting the recession and that some of the firms that have gotten billions of taxpayer dollars are also paying out billions in compensation. But so far, all Washington has done is enact high-profile but ineffective pay caps and rant about symbols like former Merrill Lynch chief executive John Thain's $1.2 million office-decorating bill. (I explain why the pay curbs are ineffective at So what could our national leaders do to show that they're interested in substantive reforms that would risk annoying the powers that be, as opposed to engaging in politically safe symbolism? Simple. I'll believe Washington is serious about helping regular people -- and curbing some of Wall Street's excesses -- if it adopts four pieces of legislation I'd like to see. The first two would help average people who are being gouged by credit-card-issuing banks; the third would inflict pain on some corporate directors; the fourth would close the loophole that lets mega-rich hedge fund and buyout guys pay low taxes on the hundreds of millions (or billions) of dollars they earn in a good year.

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