[Excerpt] The world is near the bottom of a global recession that is causing widespread business contraction, increases in unemployment, and shrinking government revenues. Although recent data indicate the large industrialized economies may have reached bottom and are beginning to recover, for the most part, unemployment is still rising. Numerous small banks and households still face huge problems in restoring their balance sheets, and unemployment has combined with sub-prime loans to keep home foreclosures at a high rate. Nearly all industrialized countries and many emerging and developing nations have announced economic stimulus and/or financial sector rescue packages, such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111- 5). Several countries have resorted to borrowing from the International Monetary Fund as a last resort. The crisis has exposed fundamental weaknesses in financial systems worldwide, demonstrated how interconnected and interdependent economies are today, and has posed vexing policy dilemmas.
The process for coping with the crisis by countries across the globe has been manifest in four basic phases. The first has been intervention to contain the contagion and restore confidence in the system. This has required extraordinary measures both in scope, cost, and extent of government reach. The second has been coping with the secondary effects of the crisis, particularly the global recession and flight of capital from countries in emerging markets and elsewhere that have been affected by the crisis. The third phase of this process is to make changes in the financial system to reduce risk and prevent future crises. In order to give these proposals political backing, world leaders have called for international meetings to address changes in policy, regulations, oversight, and enforcement. On September 24-25, 2009, heads of the G-20 nations met in Pittsburgh to address the global financial crisis. The fourth phase of the process is dealing with political, social, and security effects of the financial turmoil. One such effect is the strengthened role of China in financial markets.
The role for Congress in this financial crisis is multifaceted. While the recent focus has been on combating the recession, the ultimate issue perhaps is how to ensure the smooth and efficient functioning of financial markets to promote the general well-being of the country while protecting taxpayer interests and facilitating business operations without creating a moral hazard. In addition to preventing future crises through legislative, oversight, and domestic regulatory functions, On June 17, 2009, the Department of the Treasury presented the Obama Administration proposal for financial regulatory reform. The proposal focuses on five areas and includes establishing the Federal Reserve as a systemic risk regulator, creating a Council of Regulators, regulating all financial derivatives, creating a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, improving coordination and oversight of international financial markets, and other provisions. Treasury also has submitted to Congress proposed legislation to implement the reforms. The reform agenda now has moved to Congress. Legislation in Congress addresses many of the issues in the Treasury plan but also may focus on other financial issues. Congress also plays a role in measures to reform and recapitalize the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and regional development banks.