OPINION: Deregulation Hopes Pushed Out

Terry Flanagan

The overnight news that the U.S. launched missile strikes against a Syrian military airfield holds broad implications on many fronts, from a read on President Trump’s foreign policy to the state of the Middle East to U.S.-Russian relations.

One additional byproduct: the likelihood that deregulation of financial markets will be pushed further back on the burner.

Candidate Trump often ranted about Dodd-Frank and spoke about how he would dismantle much of the Obama-era rules that have constrained Wall Street, most specifically big banks. And in early February, just a couple weeks after being inaugurated, Trump took the first steps to roll back regulations by ordering a review of what should go.

But that was mostly just a photo opp, with little bottom-line meaning for the financial-market firms that have for years operated in an environment in which compliance is the biggest growth area. The real heavy lifting is in actually rolling back regulations — this is what needs stuff like debates, agreement, and congressional approval.

Trump has a Republican Congress on his side, so he should be able to make it happen, at some point.

But the problem is that other business has been getting priority attention. Attempted immigration restrictions via travel bans were big early to-dos, and they’re still far from settled. Healthcare — as big and complex of an issue as any — had a big push. The first try failed, but House leadership has indicated that they’re staying on the case.

Tax reform and infrastructure are big-ticket items on Trump’s to-do list that haven’t been touched yet.

Add it up and there’s not a lot of oxygen in the room for a deep dive into deregulation. Presumably it will happen sometime, but the slowing of the Trump agenda is reflected in the recent softness in bank stocks, which had a big run between Election Day and earlier this year.

But banks, take heart: Hillary Clinton said she wanted to expand Dodd-Frank, and Bernie Sanders called for breaking up the big banks. So waiting for deregulation while no additional regulation happens is better than what could have been.

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