U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson plans Monday to call for sweeping structural changes in the way the government monitors financial markets, capping a broad review aimed at revamping a system of regulatory oversight built piecemeal since the Civil War.Sweeping Changes in Paulson Plan (Wall Street Journal, 30 March 2008)
If even only some of the changes get made, they would represent a major reworking of the U.S. regulatory system for finance. Such an outcome would likely take years and would also require major compromises from an increasingly partisan Congress.
Opposition is already emerging from critics who feel the document nods too far toward deregulation. The revamp process began early last year before the credit crunch and was initially aimed at improving American competitiveness. As such, it's a hybrid that both adds new rules to deal with recent financial woes but also simplifies old structures in a way that favors some in the finance industry.
"It takes a certain chutzpah to say the appropriate response to a financial crisis is to loosen regulation," said Barbara Roper of the Consumer Federation of America, a consumer advocacy group. "Wall Street generally looks to me like they didn't get hit with anything they don't want."
The proposal will also trigger messy feuds over turf at a time when confidence in government supervision is low. On Friday -- hours before the Treasury document became public --John Reich, head of the Office of Thrift Supervision, which regulates federal savings and loans, or thrifts, sent a memo to employees stating: "Many of you might be wondering whether financial services restructuring is an idea whose time has finally come. I don't think so." Under the plan, OTS would be merged out of existence. (See an internal memo from the OTS director.)
There's one other thing you need, and it's getting harder to find: a local record store. The kind of place with poster-covered walls, tattoo-covered customers, and an indie-rock aficionado at the cash register, somebody in a retro T-shirt who helps you navigate the store's eclectic inventory.
A few years ago on just one block of Chapel Hill's Franklin Street, the main drag in what's been called America's ideal college town, four or five such places catered both to locals and University of North Carolina students.
But with the demise of Schoolkids Records, the last one is gone. Schoolkids had planned to gut it out through March, but couldn't even make through its final week and shut down Saturday. It's just the latest victim in an industry hit by rising college-town rents, big-box retailers, high CD prices, and - most importantly - a new generation of college students for whom music has become an entirely online, intangible hobby they often don't have to pay for.