TIMOTHY NOAH NOVEMBER 14, 2011
Psst, Occupy Wall Streeters. I've got a new slogan for you: "Feed The Watchdog!"
The Dodd-Frank financial-reform law gave the Securities and Exchange Commission lots of new regulatory responsibilities that House Republicans don't want it to have. Since they lack the votes to repeal Dodd-Frank, they're de-funding it instead. The SEC will have to make do with the same funding level it had in 2011. The same goes for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Under Dodd-Frank the CFTC is supposed to regulate derivatives. Remember derivatives? They helped sink the economy in 2008. But the GOP doesn't want the CFTC to regulate derivatives. So its budget won't increase either.
Look, this isn't rocket science. When a regulator is underfunded it becomes more timid and less competent. Diana B. Henriques, author of The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust, says one reason the SEC failed to follow up on leads that Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme was that turnover at the agency was very high--so high that the Government Accountability Office believed "it was likely to impair the agency's ability to carry out its mandate of protecting investors." Which, on the evidence, it did.
So, okay Occupy Wall Streeters, here's what you do. You march down to the Capitol. The guy you want to picket is Hal Rogers, chairman of House appropriations. His office is in 2406 Rayburn. No, wait, you'll never get past security. Okay then, picket outside the Rayburn House Office building. Better yet, organize a bunch of people to phone his office and ask why he's not allowing the SEC and the CFTC to carry out their legal responsibilities. If that's too complicated, then just ask why he's starving the financial watchdogs. Ask whether it might have something to do with the two hundred grand he's pulled in from commercial banks during his time in Congress, including $19,000 in the current election cycle. Be polite, but get the message across that you oppose these budget cuts. Tell him you're from Occupy Wall Street, but that you could just as easily be a Tea Partier, because they don't like politicians who sell out to Wall Street any more than you do.