WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney has participated in 23 debates and sat for scores of interviews since launching his campaign for president, but nearly a year later, he's still maddeningly vague about his views on financial policy.
"You need to have regulation that's up to date," Romney has said.
While he has declared that he wants to repeal the Dodd-Frank Act, the former Massachusetts governor has not given much indication about what he would replace it with beyond saying he favored a "streamlined regulatory framework."
What Romney means is: Yes, some regulation is necessary. No, I'm not going to give you any more details about my policy agenda than I have to.
This is what politicians do, of course. But in the wake of losses at JPMorgan Chase & Co., questions about the Volcker Rule and ongoing legislative attempts to roll back portions of Dodd-Frank, more details are needed about what, precisely, Romney wants to do.
Following is a cheat sheet of financial-policy questions the presumptive Republican nominee should have to answer:
1) Gov. Romney, the House voted last week to repeal the government's authority to wind down large, failing financial institutions in an orderly way. Do you support this plan?
2) Would you abolish the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and return the agency's authorities to the other bank regulators?
3) Would you repeal the government's new consumer-protection authority over non-bank lenders?
4) Do you believe there are advantages to the U.S. economy as a whole from having banks as large as JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and Goldman Sachs?
5) Do you believe that U.S. taxpayers should provide a backstop, through the FDIC, for the kind of trading activities that led to the recent $2 billion loss at JPMorgan Chase?
6) You've said there was a need, in the wake of the financial crisis, for better capital requirements. Are there any changes you'd make to Dodd-Frank in that regard? Do you support the Basel III accord, including the capital surcharge on large banks?
7) You've argued that the Dodd-Frank Act is far too long, and that it would have been appropriate for Congress to enact perhaps a 10- or 20-page law. You've also said that it is important to regulate derivatives. Given that the derivatives portion of the law is more than 160 pages alone, is it fair to conclude that you would toss out the whole derivatives section and start from scratch?
8) How would your approach to regulating derivatives differ from the approach taken under Dodd-Frank?
9) You've spoken about the need, following the events of 2008, for better regulation of mortgage lending. And you've decried the burden imposed by Dodd-Frank on community banks. But when community bankers talk about what aspects of Dodd-Frank are presenting them problems, they point primarily to the law's mortgage rules. How would you improve regulation of mortgage lending without burdening community banks?
10) In late 2009 you said that Ben Bernanke was doing a good job as chairman of the Fed. Then once primary season started, and Bernanke came under criticism from some of your fellow candidates, you said you would not reappoint him. What changed your mind?
11) You promise to order the repeal of any Obama-era regulations that unduly burden job creation or the economy. Who will determine what represents an undue burden — your budget office or the agencies themselves?
12) At a town hall meeting in March, you were asked whether you'd repeal Sarbanes-Oxley, and you said: "Yes. There's a direct answer." But your website says that you would "amend Sarbanes-Oxley to relieve mid-size companies from onerous requirements." So which is it - a complete repeal of the law, or changes to relieve the burden on mid-size firms?
13) One of the most important issues in the first term of a Romney administration will be defining the role of the federal government in the mortgage market. Should the U.S. government get out of the business of guaranteeing mortgages altogether, or is there a proper role, and where would you draw that line?
As the former head of a hugely successful private equity firm, Mitt Romney is undoubtedly one of the most financially sophisticated candidates for president in U.S. history.
He knows these issues. He should take a clearer stand.
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