Wall Street and the financial system are viewed with deep, wide, and deserved distrust. As Americans clearly understand, the rules of the game for Wall Street have a profound impact on our economic security, and too many people have suffered from policies that enrich a tiny few at the expense of millions. Republican, Democratic and Independent voters have said as much again and again, in polls and elections.
In this election, supporters of both candidates were looking for more accountability for Wall Street. The country will be watching to see whether the new President and his Congressional allies make choices – about who to appoint and what policies to embrace – that can deliver that kind of change in the public interest.
The White House and both chambers of Congress will now be under the control of a single political party. If its leaders mean to follow the will of the electorate, they will have to push ahead on measures to reform the financial system so that it is not only safer but better equipped to serve its rightful role as an instrument of productive investment and of a more just economy.
President-elect Trump has described hedge fund managers as “getting away with murder” on their taxes while the middle class is “getting absolutely destroyed.” He can begin to change that by swiftly taking action to close the carried interest loophole. As a candidate, Trump called for a new Glass Steagall Act; his party’s platform did the same. He should press forward on that.
In Congress, members of both parties have expressed outrage over the Wells Fargo scandal and the bank’s massive abuse of consumer rights. If their rhetoric is not to ring hollow, the new Administration and Congressional leaders will need to reexamine a number of policies that Republicans have regularly supported in the past. They cannot, for example, credibly call for an end to financial-industry fraud and abuse, yet continue their efforts to eviscerate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the new agency that in its short life has delivered more than $11 billion in relief to consumers defrauded by banks and financial companies, while beginning to bring basic standards of fair play to a marketplace long notorious for its tricks and traps. Nor can they claim to be looking out for middle-class workers, but go on trying to overturn the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule, which will keep Wall Street from pilfering $17 billion a year from Americans’ retirement savings.
By large margins, Americans want to see financial regulation strengthened, not weakened. They want the financial system to work better for the economy, so that the economy works better for all of us. Leaders in Washington must heed that call.