With news that President Obama and Congressional leaders have struck a tentative agreement on a framework for a budget deal that includes an increase in the federal government's borrowing limit one day prior to the August 2 deadline, it would appear that the debt ceiling crisis may finally be averted (although Congress has yet to vote on the legislation, which is expected today).
While this is of course welcome news, it is apparent that this is just a short-term solution, and much hard work remains to get the nation's fiscal house in order. Beyond our difficult long-term debt issues, of more immediate concern to those of us in the financial services community is whether Congress will allocate sufficient financial resources to properly fund the federal regulatory agencies that are charged with implementing and enforcing the vast reforms required by the Dodd-Frank Act, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. As has been widely reported recently, at the one year anniversary of the signing of the Act, many agencies are behind schedule in drafting the panoply of intricate rules and studies that are mandated by the Act. Further, concerns have been expressed by regulators and observers that the agencies are moving too hastily, with too few qualified staff to devote sufficient attention to the required rulemakings. CFTC Chairman Gensler, for one, has publicly stated he doubts that his agency will be able to police the derivatives market properly under the new rules they are in the process of drafting without a significant increase in staff funding. Many conservatives in Congress have called for significant cuts in regulatory agency budgets, in what they view is a political position consistent with free market principles. And, it is reported that this weekend's apparent budget deal emphasizes spending cuts, leaving the issue of revenue increases for another day.
While one can certainly debate the proper mix of spending cuts and revenue increases as an economic and fiscal matter, one thing is for sure: Regardless of one's political views, it is in everyone's interest to give our regulators enough resources and support to allow them to fulfill their mandates of ensuring fair, transparent and efficient financial markets. If we do this, we will be one step closer to hopefully putting the nation on a sound long-term economic footing again.