MINNEAPOLIS -- Vice President Joe Biden, who will be in Florida as Republicans gather to nominate their presidential ticket, on Tuesday compared GOP critics of the Obama administration's Wall Street reforms to "squealing pigs."
Biden's comments showed he has no intention of softening his attack-dog rhetoric, despite widespread criticism of remarks he made last week in which he said presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney and other Republicans would put Americans "back in chains" in order to unshackle Wall Street.
Appearing before a raucous crowd in downtown Minneapolis, Biden said a Democratic-led Congress had approved a law reining in the Wall Street excesses that contributed to the nation's economic collapse four years ago. The Dodd-Frank law, which toughened financial-industry regulations after the 2008 meltdown, was approved despite strong objections from Republicans, including Romney, Biden said.
"Over the objections – where they sound like squealing pigs – over the objections of Romney and all of his allies, we passed some of the toughest Wall Street regulations in history," Biden said.
Although the economy remains sluggish and unemployment persistently high, Biden said that progress was being made under President Back Obama.
"Folks, the middle class has started to come back. They have been ravaged," he said.
That assertion led Romney spokesman Ryan Williams to retort: "Vice President Biden's claim that the middle class is `coming back' couldn't be more out of touch with the reality. Whether it's high unemployment, falling incomes, soaring tuition costs, or rising prices, middle-class families are struggling in the worst economic recovery America has ever had."
Biden also said a budget plan offered by Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was neither new nor courageous.
"What's bold about gutting Medicare and education to pay for tax cuts" for the rich? Biden asked. "We've seen this movie before, we know how it ends. It ends with the Great Recession of 2008. It ends with catastrophe."
Biden said Romney had flip-flopped on trade sanctions against China by once denouncing them as protectionism but now supporting them. The vice president pointed to Romney's former firm, Bain Capital, to criticize the Republican further on China policy.
"I wish he'd been that tough when companies owned by Bain were outsourcing thousands of jobs to China," he said.
The Obama campaign announced that Biden will be attending events in Florida on Monday and Tuesday, including a stop in Tampa on the convention's opening day. Obama won Florida four years ago, but Republicans are hoping the weeklong convention will help them recapture the key battleground.
After his speech in Minneapolis, Biden asked reporters, "Any of you going to Florida?" He added, "I'm going to be the speaker at the convention."
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A main justification cited for the widely-debated bailouts was that regulators lacked the legal tools to effectively wind down large, complex firms like AIG. So in Dodd-Frank, they were given this ability. The FDIC and Federal Reserve have a joint proposal that requires such large firms to submit "living wills," which is expected to be finalized in August. Regulators are also divided over whether to include non-banks, such as certain hedge funds and private equity firms. And the FDIC is still in the process of reaching agreements with other countries to help wind down multinational firms.
Debit Card Fees
One of the most hotly-debated provisions -- setting limits on the charges that banks could charge merchants for the use of debit cards -- pitted giant retailers like Walmart and Home Depot against Mastercard and Visa. Though the financial services industry failed to get legislation passed in the Senate to delay the new requirements, it helped convince the Federal Reserve to raise the fees from 12 to 21 cents that merchants have to pay banks.
One looming battle is over which firms are labeled "systemically important" and therefore subject to increased government oversight. Though banks with more than $50 billion in assets automatically qualify, they are furiously lobbying to even out the damage by getting the feds to include some private-equity firms, insurers and hedge funds in that designation.
The overhaul of the massive market in derivatives -- complex financial instruments widely blamed for exacerbating the financial crisis -- has been delayed until at least October 2012. At that point, a new Congress or new administration might be less interested in taming the sector. House Republicans have also tried another tack, starving regulatory agencies of the funds they need to implement and enforce the upcoming rules.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is also one of the most polarizing elements of the law, with liberals championing its creation and conservatives condemning it as another unaccountable bureaucracy. Much of the drama centered around Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard Law professor who first proposed the CFPB, with Republicans vehemently opposed to her heading the new agency. After months of anticipation, the Obama administration didn't pick Warren, but chose one of her allies, former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, whose nomination did nothing to please the CFPB's GOP opponents. Otherwise, the bureau is on track, with some high-level hires and more than 200 staffers (and 1,000 expected by the end of the year.) Tomorrow, it takes over some powers including making rules for existing consumer financial laws. Yet without a director, it remains hobbled and unable to perform some of its essential duties.
Though Wall Street has vigorously fought new capital requirements -- requiring banks to hold enough capital, so as to survive times of crisis -- arguing that they would restrict lending and growth, most of the rules have been implemented. Earlier this year, regulators finalized a rule which establishes a capital floor for banks.
The Volcker Rule
The Volcker Rule, named after former Fed chairman Paul Volcker, prohibits banks from trading for their own benefit. But it has yet to be implemented, and regulators have still not released proposed rules, thought they face an October deadline. Lobbyists and regulators have been debating the definition of so-called proprietary trading.
'Skin In The Game'
Out of concern that the mortgage crisis was exacerbated since mortgage originators don't have skin in the game, the law required them to retain some of the credit risk of borrowers. But a 20 percent requirement has been opposed by the industry, which claims that it will increase the cost of borrowing. Regulators are seeking comments through August 1, and the final rule won't be ready for at least a few months.
Office of Financial Research
With experts saying that regulators' lack of information and industry data helped prevent them from anticipating the mortgage and credit crisis in 2008, Dodd-Frank authorized the creation of the Office of Financial Research. But the new office, backed by subpoena power, still lacks a director, limiting its effectiveness.