Why Obama Must Take On Wall Street.

It has been more than a year since all hell broke loose on Wall Street and, remarkably, almost nothing has been done to prevent all hell from breaking loose again.

In fact, close your eyes and you could be back in the wilds of 2007. Bankers are still making wild bets, still devising new derivatives, still piling on debt. The big banks have access to money almost as cheaply as in 2007, courtesy of the Fed, so bank profits are up and bonuses as generous as at the height of the boom.

The only difference is that now the Street’s biggest banks know they are “too big to fail” and will be bailed out by taxpayers if they get into trouble – which means they have every incentive to make even riskier bets. And, of course, American taxpayers are out some $120bn, while millions have lost their homes, jobs, and savings.

All could be forgiven if the House and Senate committees with responsibility for coming up with new regulations were about to come down hard on the Street and if the Obama administration were pushing them to. But nothing of the sort is happening. Yes, the White House has indicated interest in charging banks for the cost of the bailout, but this is not real reform; it’s just making up for some of the direct costs of cleaning up the mess.

More after the jump.

--Robert Reich

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