Stein: Obama Is So Right on Bank Reform

CBS Sunday Morning Contributor Ben Stein on why the financial reform President Obama is pushing is the right course of action ...


For many years, the public image that Wall Street has tried to portray of itself is this: A group of careful, gray-haired, well-coiffed, experienced, thoughtful older men and women who care for your money and help you get that yacht you deserve when you retire.

That's a pretty image, but it has not been entirely true for a long time now, if ever. There are still plenty of thoughtful, conscientious people in finance, and I know many of them and I like them.

But in recent decades, you might do better to think of the people of Wall Street as a bunch of wild, out of control fraternity boys, drunk on money and power, making stupendous, unimaginably big bets with your money on events you have only a dim idea about.

When these bets pay off for the frat boys they have staggering paychecks. If things go bad, you - Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer - might wind up picking up the tab.

Sometimes, the frat boys try to fraudulently rig the game, too, apparently, as the SEC recently alleged against Goldman Sachs, the huge financial house.

Sometimes the bets and the alleged rigging go so wrong that they bring the whole financial system to its knees.

Imagine a group of drunken frat boys playing with nuclear missiles, as Warren Buffett suggested in an analogy, and you have the general idea. You don't even have to imagine it! This is what led to the current recession.

It wasn't overly ambitious homeowners in Modesto or Miami; it was wild men on Wall Street.

Now, President Obama is trying to get Congress to do some modest reforms that will rein in the frat boys and keep us from coming as close to financial Armageddon as we did in 2007 and 2008. The legislation is not perfect, but it is a big step in the right direction.

The Wild West, "anything goes," casino mentality of modern Wall Street is an insult to the decency of the ordinary American taxpayer.

I rarely carry water for President Obama. But he is so right on this one it's not even close.

Time for the grown-ups to step in and take the weapons of financial mass destruction away from the party-hearty crowd. Time to keep the specter of another Great Depression far from our American door.

Good night, boys! Take your Ferraris and go home! Vroom Vroom!
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