Wall Street regulation bill a win for Main Street America

The Billings Gazette

by Jon Tester

The U.S. Senate made history on May 20. We passed a powerful bill that finally holds Wall Street accountable. It finally cleans up the schemes and abuses that nearly brought our entire economy to its knees.

Most importantly, the Wall Street reform bill once and for all ends taxpayer-funded bailouts of Wall Street banks and investment firms. It finally gets rid of the notion that one private company can somehow be “too big to fail.”

I never bought that argument. In fact, I was the only Senate Democrat to vote against both the bailout of Wall Street and the U.S. auto industry because I don’t believe in bailouts.

Nor should we be meddling in the problems of places like Greece and other nations in financial trouble. That’s why I voted last week to put the squeeze on bailouts of foreign countries.

Putting in referees

But I do believe in making sure folks are playing by the same rules. Our economy went belly up a year and a half ago because there were no referees on the field. Thanks to the Restoring American Financial Stability Act we passed this week, that’s about to change.

Once it becomes law, our Wall Street reform bill requires big banks to pay for their own liquidation should they fail. Taxpayers will never again be part of the equation.

The bill also streamlines the regulation of Wall Street, providing the referees the tools they need to do get the job done fairly and effectively. It also ensures that everyone will now be playing by the same rules. The bill has tough new rules to prevent the spread of risky and dangerous products (like subprime mortgages) that torpedoed our nation’s entire financial industry.

As a member of the Senate Banking Committee, my role over the past few weeks has been to help shape the Wall Street reform bill to make sure it’s right for Montana and rural America. After countless hours of hearings, negotiations and meetings with Montanans, we did just that.

Fairness for small banks

The Wall Street reform bill is good for Montana’s community banks. And it benefits small businesses.

Even in this era of bitter bipartisanship, the Senate unanimously passed my amendment to make sure banks pay only their fair share for federal insurance. Right now smaller community banks are paying for 30 percent of this insurance, even though they only account for 20 percent of all bank assets. That doesn’t make sense.

I ensured that community banks won’t be punished for the bad behavior of the mortgage brokers that offered risky mortgages. Those banks will be able to maintain the community-based regulators that they currently have.

And for small businesses, I co-sponsored an amendment making it easier for investors to help get new small businesses up and running and benefitting the health of our economy.

This bill is a big win for Main Street. It holds Wall Street accountable and preserves the critical role community banks have in strengthening communities, jobs, and small businesses. That’s important because Montana families rely on their community banks to finance and grow their businesses, pay their bills, and to help put their kids through school.

Our reform is strong because it ends taxpayer-funded bailouts. And it begins a new era of strong, common-sense regulation to put some sideboards on our fast-moving financial industry, without taking away the fundamental tools it needs for healthy competition and growth — which strengthens our economy.

We need strong, common-sense regulation because we can’t afford to let our financial industry go by the wayside ever again.