Banking and risk, not good (or the day noses reappeared on faces)

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., got on the floor of the Senate this week and stated what has, after a decade-plus of Wall Street national governance, become obvious: “We should separate banking from risk.”

Yet the most basic true words, spoken plainly by a gray-faced senator with a comb-over and a bad tie, seems just right, now when news of one economic shock after another rolls in at increasing intervals. Especially when presented in the bland manner embraced by the makers of the Democratic Policy Committee’s daily videos.

“They called that notion old-fashioned,” says Dorgan. Then he pulled out the trump card, reminding listeners that he was one of only eight senators who, in 1999, voted against repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act. The Glass-Steagall Act was set up after the crash of 1929 to separate investment banking and commercial banking — i.e., to separate banking from risk.

“I said then 10 years ago that I think this will end in big taxpayer bailouts. I said it during debate not because I knew it but because I felt it… Now we’ve got… so-called toxic assets deep in the bowels of some of the largest financial institutions in the country.”

No flashy ideas or artful turns of phrase, Durgan is pure North Dakota and may be a man who has found his moment. Check it out. It feels like a splash of cold water on the face and a bracing sip of whiskey after a long ride on the open prairie.


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