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Obama Doesn't Begrudge Wall Street Bonuses As Reg Reform Languishes

This post by Jill Schlesinger originally appeared on CBS'

President Obama left his pitch fork in a closet somewhere in the West Wing before his interview with Bloomberg BusinessWeek. We know this because in a sharp turn from his recent fat cat, anti-bank comments, the President seemed downright generous when talking about bonuses awarded to a couple of Wall Street CEOs.

Specifically, Obama said of JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon ($17 million in total compensation) and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein ($9 million) "I know both those guys. They're very savvy businessmen. And I, like most of the American people, don't begrudge people success or wealth. That's part of the free market system."

HUH? This is what my friend Dan calls the ultimate in transparency, as in President Obama seems to transparently pander to whichever constituency he needs in the moment. This is further confirmation that regulatory reform is dead and I'm sick over it. Now we are stuck with silly conversations about bonuses that don't address a depressing fact: the very rules and regulations that allowed a near-total melt-down of the global financial system still exist!

The sad thing is that there was a great opportunity last year to enact real reform. That's when the government had the leverage to actually make something good happen, not to prattle off populist garbage. I have written this before, but it bears repeating: we need to harmonize oversight to create regulation that fosters free markets, not free-for-all markets; that monitors systemic risk; ensures the safety and soundness of individual institutions; and oversees business conduct so that investors are protected.

Until that happens, I don't want to hear the President talk about fat cat bankers, who are just as overpaid as professional athletes. I want him to get tough with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and make reform a priority, not a talking point in a stump speech.

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Jill Schlesinger is the Editor-at-Large for CBS Prior to the launch of MoneyWatch, she was the Chief Investment Officer for an independent investment advisory firm. In her infancy, she was an options trader on the Commodities Exchange of New York.
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