In The Shadow of Political Dysfunction, Congress Adopts VA Overhaul and Banking Regulation Rollback
Controversy has become the Trump Administration’s public image. According to conventional wisdom, this should mean the President is far too distracted to actually accomplish anything significant. Recognizing the sheer volume of news reports about Donald Trump’s constant stream of scandals, the efforts of his staff members to deflect criticism away from the President, and Trump’s obsession with anyone who criticizes him, there is little reason to doubt the conventional wisdom. Coupled with Trump’s apparent capitulation on trade with China, the likely abandonment of highly trumpeted talks with North Korea, and the President’s political weakness at home, along with a whole host of other shortfalls on various issues, it would appear the Trump Administration has succumbed to the President’s self-destructive tendencies. A bipartisan overhaul of the VA healthcare system and a quasi-bipartisan loosening of the Dodd-Frank Act begs to differ.
The VA Mission Act promises to make it easier for vets to see private doctors when they either live too far away from a VA medical center or appointments are not available. Although the VA healthcare system provides quality healthcare when compared to the private healthcare system, aging veterans and casualties from the Iraq War and Afghanistan War have stressed the VA system. It has made it harder for veterans to get appointments when they need them while a lack of options often force veterans to travel long distances. Increased access to private healthcare providers should, therefore, help veterans get the care they need when they need it and not just when the VA can provide it. Critics, of course, fear the bill could weaken the VA healthcare system by pushing veterans into the private market and starving the VA system of the dollars it needs to maintain a large enough infrastructure to support veterans across the nation.
Like all business models, it is probably true that this partial privatization of the VA healthcare system will translate into fewer or smaller VA medical facilities. Losing its monopoly on veteran healthcare dollars will likely mean fewer veterans going to VA medical facilities. Over the course of time, this will make it necessary for the VA to close under-utilized facilities and expand larger facilities where prolonged and more specialized care can be provided. If done properly, such a restructuring of the VA healthcare system will allow veterans to access care at home through private providers and at regional VA hospitals. Given the increasing strain on the VA healthcare system, such a restructuring could either save the VA healthcare system or reduce the need for the government to spend huge sums simply to maintain underutilized facilities. Like all subcontracting efforts, however it is obviously necessary to increase scrutiny, not decrease it.
What the passage of the VA Mission ACT shows is that government can accomplish relatively big things despite toxic political dysfunction. It reminds the American People that politics and government can be independent. It demonstrates the ability of lawmakers to put side their politics, which ushered them into office, in order to do the work of the People. With that in mind, there is something ominous about the ability of elected officials to simply ignore the political sentiments of their constituents. Politically, the country is deeply divided on a lot of issues for valid reasons. There are also a lot of people who would rather have a government that is so dysfunctional and divided that it cannot act without the will of the American People or against the interests of the American People. Although the ranks of such people usually encompass libertarian-leaning individuals, who seek to dismantle most government regulations, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act should probably be somewhat alarming to all people.
The Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was a response to the Great Recession and the lending practices of banks that helped plunge the Nation into the worst recession since the Great Depression. Critics of Dodd-Frank, including a significant number of lobbyist working on behalf of the banking industry, have advocated for exemptions that would allow smaller banks to ignore the protections the legislation created. They argue smaller and regional banks cannot stimulate the economy with loans, because government regulations are too burdensome. They allegedly want Dodd-Frank to focus on the few banks with massive enough assets to prevent a systemic failure to the banking system, i.e. banks that are “too big to fail.” Critics of the new legislation believe reduced regulation will increase the risk and cost of government bailouts while encouraging the very reckless lending practices that resulted in the Great Recession. This is a plausible fear as smaller banks can now compete with bigger banks by engaging in riskier lending practices.
Dodd-Frank included protections for consumers, which have been under assault by figures the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Mick Mulvaney. For the most part, they are not being targeted by the current legislation. In fact, borrowers, such as mortgage holders and cosigners of students loans may see some new protections. As such, the main threat of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act is the potential for a return to the abuse that resulted in the Great Recession. If advocates of the new rollback, which does not include any alternative protections because the banking bill basically raises the asset cap for banks that are exempt, are wrong, this bipartisan accomplishment could turn into a bipartisan nightmare. Unfortunately, the issues associated with this legislation were not openly discussed or properly debated, because the country is too busy following Trump scandals and politically bashing each other. The biggest threat is not a recession. It is the ability of lawmakers to pass major pieces off legislation in the shadow of political dysfunction.
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