The GOP's Campaign To Unravel Dodd-Frank

Illustration by 731

One big difficulty Republicans face in trying to undo the Dodd-Frank financial reform law is that, unlike the health-care law, it isn’t particularly controversial or unpopular. It came about because of a crisis that everyone felt acutely (and many are still suffering from). Also unlike health care, there hasn’t been a challenge to the law’s constitutionality, so getting rid of it entails more than filing a lawsuit and hoping the Supreme Court takes care of the rest. The presumptive GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, has pledged to overturn it. But he’s not exactly a pillar of constancy and resolve, and actually carrying through on the pledge would expose him and his party to a significant political risk.

And let’s be honest—the Wall Street firms most eager to undo the law rank among the least sympathetic interest groups in Washington. Most people not only don’t mind that these firms face tighter regulation, they actively favor it and think the government ought to rescind all those bonuses while they’re at it. This makes the GOP’s task of changing their mind a particularly onerous one.

Undaunted, the Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee are taking their best shot and employing social media as part of this persuasion effort. One aspect of the campaign that caught my eye is a kind of doomsday Web video that—cleverly but futilely, I suspect—attempts to align the government’s stepped-up surveillance of financial firms with the controversial practices used by various shady Web companies, such as surreptitiously tracking users’ information and generally invading their privacy. The target here is the Office of Financial Research, a benign-sounding entity created under the new law that the video endeavors to recast as an Orwellian horror show. “This office represents a hacker’s dream and a civil libertarian’s nightmare,” a narrator darkly intones, over a score that could have been used to introduce Darth Vader.

Like I said, it’s hard to believe that this video will shift the public debate much. But it’s an interesting and creative way to try to undermine Dodd-Frank. All it lacks is a scene of an asteroid hurtling toward earth.

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