July 21st, 2010
07:15 AM ET
10 years ago

Borger: Obama wins on Wall St., loses Main St.

CNN Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger says with President Obama’s signing of financial reform legislation, he wins on Wall Street but loses on Main Street.

CNN Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger says with President Obama’s signing of financial reform legislation, he wins on Wall Street but loses on Main Street.

Editor's note: Gloria Borger is a senior political analyst for CNN, appearing regularly on CNN's "The Situation Room," "AC360°" and "State of the Union," as well as participating in special event coverage.

Washington (CNN) - Ask anyone at the White House about the importance of the financial reform bill the president will sign today, and the answer is near-universal: a colossal achievement. And why not?

It's sweeping legislation: creating new consumer protections, making it unattractive for institutions to become "too big to fail," imposing new rules for financial transparency.

And, by the way, it's also a pretty popular idea, in theory at least: 60 percent of Americans say they want to reform Wall Street, according to a recent CNN poll. So it's a no-brainer, right?

Not exactly, at least not now. The problem for Obama and Co. is that, while anti-Wall Street sentiment is still alive, it's playing second fiddle to a much stronger fervor: anti-government. While voters want to see a change on Wall Street, they're not sure that the government's new regulations are going to make it happen.

So all that work for reform, and the Democrats will get very little credit in the short-term. "The populist sentiment of 2008 may be overridden by the anti-government, anti-spending fervor of 2010," writes GOP strategist Steve Lombardo. "The passage of this legislation may ultimately be helpful to Obama in 2012, but it is likely to have little or no impact in the congressional elections this fall."

In other words, we want Wall Street fixed. But we don't trust government to do it.

That's why, when Republicans oppose the measure, the explanation is always all about government, not about Wall Street. The GOP is proud to vote "no" in unison, says Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, on 'things like the government running banks and car companies and taking over our health care."

As for financial reform? "It's going to require the issuance of 370 new regulations," he told Candy Crowley on CNN's State of the Union, as if the notion of regulating Wall Street is shocking.

In fact, the lax regulatory environment was considered the leading culprit after the financial meltdown. Everyone, we were told, was asleep at the switch. And in some cases, the regulators had no switch, no real power. But now, it's the regulations, as an extension of government, that have become suspect. How quickly we forget.

The problem is that the administration has created the environment that now threatens to undermine its own successes: it has pushed the tolerance of the American people for more government activity than makes them comfortable.

The president had two agendas when he took office, says former Bill Clinton domestic policy adviser Bill Galston: "He had the agenda he ran on, and the agenda that circumstances forced on him. And the question was whether the agenda of necessity would force the downsizing of the agenda of choice."

Obama did both.

He did an economic stimulus plan and devoted a year to health care. He bailed out the banks and passed financial reform. And he still wants to get something done on energy and immigration, so long as there are enough Democrats to pass something.

All of which has left an American public anxious about the reach of government in general, and, more specifically, about what all of this is costing. It's no surprise, for instance, that a slim majority of the American public now believes that reducing the deficit is more important than spending or even tax-cutting to promote economic growth, according to a new National Journal poll.

So anything that smacks of big-government right now is a no-no.

For its part, the Obama administration argues that its view is the long view that health care will, for example, reduce the deficit in the long term. And, as one senior adviser tells me, they could end up with the best of both worlds - renewed economic growth as well as a list of momentous policy achievements.

In the meantime, however, they've given rise to the Tea Party and given congressional Democrats political agita. Long-term thinking can be politically dangerous.

Just ask the Republicans, who are taking the short view: opposing everything is good short-term politics. They'll win a large number of congressional seats, but then they have a problem of their own: What do they do with all of those Tea Party candidates who aren't much interested in governing? If they win the House, will those new GOP members vote for any spending bill? Will they support funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Let's see what happens if the GOP wins a congressional majority in the House, and with it, a responsibility to govern. Funny how things change when the public thinks you're in charge.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Gloria Borger.

Filed under: Financial Reform • Gloria Borger • issues • President Obama • Wall Street
soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. Save America, impeach the treasonous republicans

    If the republicans win the house, and Boehner becomes speaker, most government business will be conducted from 9 a.m. until 10:30 a.m., so John will be able to get to the bars for 'first call.'

    July 21, 2010 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  2. ANN


    President Obama has done more in his 18 months of being our president than most new presidents...the problem is CHANGE is a hard pill for alot of Americans to swallow...including you!!!

    July 21, 2010 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  3. thor

    Gloria Borger has once again let her bias get in the way of her take on this legislation.The bill does nothing to prevent the recent meltdown from happening again.The two main culprits Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac aren't even covered by the bill.This she refers to as "a collosal achievement" Really ,she needs a vacation and a big dose of political reality!!!!

    July 21, 2010 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  4. Al - Northern Virginia

    Interesting point, if the republicans win the house back, will they govern, can they "effectively" govern with the divisions within their own party? They badly govern or did not govern during the Bush years so what has changed suddenly? Easy to criticize, sit on the sidelines when you are not playing in the game. We sure we want these players . . . BACK!!!!, America? I am not sure of the republican party at all. They have a backwards looking approach to governing and seem to have not yet realize the nation is in a global economy. Be careful what you "vote" for.

    July 21, 2010 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  5. jamesnyc

    Gee they had it for 12 years and what did they do with it? Oh thats's right trillions of dollars in lost jobs, 2 wars. In short, they gutted the middle class and destroyed the economy just to feed their rich friends.
    This could get reeeeally ugly.

    July 21, 2010 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  6. FrankinNJ

    It was a good article. I found it well thought out and then it got to the end. I know this is opinion, but for goodness sake this is why no one trusts the media anymore for fair and balanced thought on either side.

    "...What do they do with all of those Tea Party candidates who aren't much interested in governing?"

    What is this based on other than a bias? What evidence are you using for that statment? While I expect the shills from both sides that post here to spout something their party has fed them without any real substance, I get tired of seeing yellow journalism passed as legitamite thought on all major media outlets. You disappoint me Gloria Borger.

    July 21, 2010 08:27 am at 8:27 am |

    The stupidity of conservative followers is alive and well.

    July 21, 2010 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  8. TonyS

    Gloria, though I don't always like or agree with your pieces, I do respect your position. I think people are seeing that more Government does not lead to better performance from our regulators. It is funny how we blame the regulators for missing the problems, yet think that if we add more, the problem will be solved. Its like giving more money to bad teachers. I agree that we need to increase transparency, but don't think more government regs and regulators are the answer.

    July 21, 2010 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  9. Robert Sanders

    Excellent article. It is funny how we forget that in the not-so-distant past everyone was screaming for more regulation of Wall Street and for health care reform.

    It is one thing to be cynical of politics and politicians it's another thing to be cynical of policy and agenda. I think we oftentimes get the two confused. It is sad that all that this administration has accomplished will get lost in the short-run because of politics and politicians (on both sides of the isle).

    The President should stay the course. It may not seem like it now, but after pulling the country from the brink of a depression, historic health care and financial reform, two supreme court appointments (so far), possible immigration reform; his legacy is ingraved in stone, and we will be the beneficiaries of it.

    Robert S.
    Fairburn, GA

    July 21, 2010 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  10. Willy Brown

    The democrats will be out like yesterday trash. They have done nothing to run on in 2010. You can't keep blaming Bush for the democrat’s failures since they took control on 2007.

    July 21, 2010 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  11. Frenchbuggler

    Wall Street cannot be reformed and certainly not by a weak president such as Barrock H. Obama. His advisers are pushing him around like a piece of plastic on a chess board and the crooks on Wall Street will not cry checkmate any time soon. Anyone can be assured of that!

    July 21, 2010 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  12. Chessnutz of Liverpool NY

    "All of which has left an American public anxious " Wow what an understatement!
    Yes we what reform but this is not reform. Yes we have 370 more laws and a new Government agency to pay for, however main street knows when it comes to enforcement again nothing will happen when the criminals of Global Corporations steal away our life's savings and retirement.
    We had laws back in 2006 through 2008 were they enforced? NO! Has anyone gone to jail? NO! Were trillions of dollars stolen from Main Street? Yes! Was Main Street required to bail those criminals out? Yes!
    What good are new laws if we are not going to enfore them?
    Lindsey Lohan goes to jail because she is a drunk, but a Wall Street Investor can sell trillions in bad securities, receive billion dollar bonuses for doing so, cause a global economic meltdown and is never charged for those crimes?

    July 21, 2010 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  13. Dave B

    You bring up some very good points. Although, the point on health care saving money is not displaying an accurate picture. There's no way adding 30 million people will save money. And even some new press news indicates that we were misled on that all of last year. Until the country wakes up and understands that new jobs will be the result of stable and responsible spending, take out many unknowns such as how much will taxes go up (even those making less than $250k), how much will health care costs go up - not till then will the majority of businesses start to hire in an effective manner - then the economy will truly recover - why is that not pushed in mainstream media??

    July 21, 2010 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  14. Pat in Omaha

    It would be a tragedy if our president were to "lose on Main Street" and give any credibility to those who are leading the charge against him.
    He's had only two years to address and turn around the pathetic Bush agenda. At least leave him alone until his work is given a chance to
    have a true test. What a terrible mistake it would be to let pundits like McConnell and the Tea Party turn us back to short term thinking and fear
    before the real benefits of Obama's reforms can be felt. We are people who need instant gratification........it will kill us in the long run!

    July 21, 2010 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  15. Heather

    Democrats? Thinking about the Long-Term? That's ridiculous! The health-care bill is the most short-sighted thing ever, taxing for 4 years just to pay for the first 2 years before costs explode and the system becomes unsustainable. If that thing was ever intended to lower the deficit you wouldn't have to tax for 4 years to get the funds. Spending trillions of dollars in just 2 years, expanding entitlement programs that are on the path to bankruptcy... all without having ANY intention of how to pay for it is the definition of short-sighted.

    All the Democrats are looking out for is getting more power so that they can complete the transformation into their Socialist Utopia....

    July 21, 2010 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  16. Frenchbuggler

    Borrock H. Obozo don't know the first thing about Wall Street. And here he is letting his advisers tell him about it on the day he wants to shove some cockamamie laws through that will disrupt the stock market more than it is already. What this dummy of a president needs to be doing is pushing and lobbying for green energy companies that will get this dumb country off of oil of anykind...both domestic and foreign. We are in a real quandry with the depleting atmosphere that surrounds this planet and Obozo is once again...pissing around while Rome burns!

    July 21, 2010 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  17. t22

    Well it's impossible to get a loan now, imagine what it will be like when there are another few hundred regulations to get past.

    July 21, 2010 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  18. AJ

    I say give Americans what Americans want. They want ultra right-wing policies and government, let em have it. If right wingers take the house in November, Dems should take their marbles and go home. With the exception of court nominations, they should let the extreme right-wing republican agenda rule. Let Americans have what they are asking for and see how they like it. Republicans don't do so well when they actually have to accomplish something other than just be the opposition.

    July 21, 2010 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  19. Keith in Austin

    It's the economy-Stupid.

    People vote their pocketbooks. With unemployment approaching 10 percent, the largest tax increase in American history looming this January and liberal spending beyond imagination, November will be a bloodbath for Liberals and rightfully so!

    July 21, 2010 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  20. Baby Boomer

    I miss the days when journalist had to hide their bias. I watch Gloria Borger do a really poor job of hiding her glee everytime she gives a report that puts President Obama's agenda in a negative light. I miss Walter Cronkite and Barbara Walters. reporting from back in the day. Really sick and tired of the "Gotcha" folks who call themselves journalist now...

    July 21, 2010 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  21. Collin


    TARP was set up by Hank Paulson and the Bush Administration, and the vote(s) were anything but party line. Yet the media and ignorant conservative activists continue to perpetuate this falsehood. It's no wonder that 2/3 of the American public believe that Obama bailed out the banks!!! Conservative activists are doing what they do best (lie and revise history), and the media does not do its job. I thought you were better than this Gloria

    July 21, 2010 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  22. Ron in california

    In my opnion what ever the issue, those in government are swayed by the extremes of their party and those with the money. The vast majority of Americans are moderates who want to live their lives in realiive prosperity, being free to speak up and to have protections from those who would harm our country. As demonstrated in this administration they have personal agendsa from which they will not be stopped. They hear but they do not listen. I hope the new generation of politicians will be more for the people than for themselves.

    July 21, 2010 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  23. Mark

    started as a decent article... right up until the end where you started to spew your lame liberal bias – can't you people help it?????

    Please bring back the republicans to stop the insanity.

    Honestly – regardless of what party is in control – we need LESS GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION... certainly not more. Government is way out of control.

    July 21, 2010 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  24. Dave Harris

    All of this "anti-government" drama-queen hysterics is just a diversion. Republicans love big, free-spending, debt-ridden government, as long as they're running it. As for the "tea party", they just want to see white people in charge again.

    July 21, 2010 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  25. Jon Torok

    I thought the problem was the federal government pushing banks to make bad decisions, artificially lowering the interest rates through the federal reserve, and then not keeping a firm thumb on the instutions they were bubbling up.

    July 21, 2010 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
1 2