Financial Institutions May Take Spotlight in 2016 US Presidential Election

Recently announced Democratic presidential nomination seeker Bernie Sanders is staking out the finance industry as one of his battlefields in the upcoming Democratic primaries, with the now sitting senator helping to push forward legislation that would break apart banks currently deemed “too big to fail” by Wall Street regulators. The senator's choice to pursue this legislation, which seems to hold little chance of even leaving committee in the current Republican dominated Senate, helps to underscore a fundamental part of Sanders' platform that is one plank of his largely progressive economic agenda.

The spirit of the legislation would attempt to rollback some financial deregulation of the last two decades.
Critics of deregulation point to the recent 2008 financial crisis and the ensuing recession as evidence that a Wall Street with less regulation leads to unacceptable risks and consequences for the rest of the American, and global, economy. The Obama administration signed various financial reforms into law during the aftermath of the financial crisis, namely the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, one piece of which put extra scrutiny and stricter capital requirements on larger banks with the hope that these pressures would move banks towards smaller, more manageable enterprises. Sanders position implies that the bill did not go far enough and lacks the necessary hard action to be an effective deterrent to another finance sector focused crisis.

Sanders is currently the top contender against Hillary Clinton, with Clinton currently enjoying a sizeable lead over all current and potential Democratic presidential candidates. Sanders position represents the recently resurgent progressive wing of the Democratic party, a vocal faction that helped clinch the nomination for Barack Obama in 2008. With Sanders championing the progressive message and marking large financial institutions as one of his targets, Clinton is put in a difficult position as she must balance the Dems' populist base with the wants and interests of her top donors - among which are major financial institutions Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and Morgan Stanley. If the Sanders campaign gains momentum, Clinton may have to align herself more closely with his positions. That shift may allow her to win the Democratic nomination, but make the road to the White House that much more difficult as she looks fill in the gaps from outside funding.

Whether or not the “Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Exist” act passes, or whether Sanders manages to become a contender for the nomination, the movement of these issues back into the political mainstream could make financial regulation a major part of the 2016 general election. Americans are by and large still struggling to put the pieces of the most recent 2008 collapse back together, with unemployment just recently approaching pre crisis levels and real economic gains failing to be realized by most lower and middle class workers. Democrat or Republican in the White House, 2016 could be the beginning of some serious shakeups on the American, and of course global, finance scene.
Published on May 7, 2015
By Travis Lindsay

Copyrighted 2016. Content published with author's permission.

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