Regulators, mount up!
Reporting my weekend column on the role that regulators will play in the success -- or failure -- of health-care reform and financial regulation left me heavily convinced about the importance of securing strong leadership for these efforts in the first place.
This is particularly true on the financial regulation bill, which punted an enormous amount to regulators. According to CNN's count, the bill calls for 68 separate studies to settle its questions. That is to say, there are at least 68 instances where the regulators are charged both with figuring out what to do and with doing it.
That means that getting the right regulators in place is going to be crucial to making these bills work. And one of my main conclusions on that front is that if you're going to attract serious talent, you need leadership who's attractive to serious talent. Don Berwick, the administration's nominee to lead the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services, is a legend in health-care circles. You really could imagine the best young people in the field rushing to work with him, particularly when health-care reform is just starting up. Similarly, if you're looking for a way to attract smart young lawyers and financial types who want to stand between banks and consumers, you want to go with Elizabeth Warren (whose presentation on consumer protection I've embedded above), the person who inspired most of them to join that cause in the first place.
But the sad tension of these positions is that the interesting, exciting choices are, almost by definition, controversial. That's how they made their reputations: Taking up a tough crusade and pursuing it with vigor and even flair. But as you see in the resistance to Berwick's nomination, and in the rumors* about Warren, this makes them tougher to confirm. The safe choices -- the bland ex-congressmen who often get called to these roles -- might face easier nomination fights, but what makes them safe also reduces their ability to attract talent, and that makes it less likely that the bills will succeed.
*Democrats aren't seriously considering Martha Coakley -- yes, that Martha Coakley -- to lead the CFPB, are they?
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