O'Malley suggests the need for two structural reforms: (1) reinstatement of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, and (2) break up the "too big to fail" banks.
In order to understand why those two reforms are unnecessary, we have to understand what happened to create the Great Recession of 2008. Financial institutions (some of which included commercial banks and some who didn't) made a lot of risky investments without the capital to back them up if those investments failed. When they did fail, it became necessary for taxpayers to bail them out or run the risk that the entire global economy would collapse.
Dodd/Frank did two things in regards to these large financial institutions:
- It gave a special council the ability to identify those who are "too big to fail" and label them "systemically important financial institutions" (SIFI). They are now required to maintain enough capital to survive the kind of market failures that led to the Great Recession. In order to ensure that happens, they must pass annual "stress tests" that are designed to replicate those conditions.
- It gave the government "orderly liquidation authority" - or the legal right to seize complex financial institutions in times of crisis. This is something the government has had the ability to do with failing commercial banks since the Great Depression. Dodd/Frank ensured that, even if a SIFI were to fail, rather than have taxpayers bail them out, the government could take them into receivership.
In light of all that, Gov. O'Malley needs to explain how Glass-Steagall and breaking up the "too big to fail" banks will improve things. My cynical self says he's playing on our anger at bailing out the banks 7 years ago and hoping we don't understand the success of Dodd/Frank in preventing it from happening again.