July 16, 2015

Sen. Brown Opening Statement at Banking Committee's Hearing on Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs – released the following opening statement, as prepared for delivery, at today’s hearing titled, “The Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress.” 

Brown’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, follow. 

Senator Sherrod Brown - Opening Statement
Hearing: “The Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress”
July 16, 2015

Thank you, Chairman Shelby.  And welcome back to the Committee, Chair Yellen. 

Five years ago, next week, the Wall Street Reform Act became law. 

That anniversary serves as an important reminder of the costs of the financial crisis.  The costs of the crisis were 9 million jobs, an unemployment rate that reached 10 percent, 5 million Americans who lost their homes, and $13 trillion in household wealth erased.

In Ohio alone, unemployment was over 10 percent, and half a million homes were foreclosed upon between 2006 and 2011. 

As you have said, Chair Yellen, the unemployed are “more than just statistics.”

Behind each job loss or foreclosure were painful conversations – parents telling their children that they were going to have to share a house with their relatives; leave their neighborhoods, schools, and friends; or that they could no longer afford their child’s college education.

The crisis took a devastating financial and psychological toll on a generation of workers and their families.

We cannot forget that this is why we passed the Wall Street Reform law.

Today’s hearing is also reminder of how far we have come in five years. 

After unprecedented actions by the government to stabilize the economy, and the creation of a new regulatory framework to maintain financial stability and protect consumers, the private sector has created 12.8 million new jobs; household wealth has grown by about $30 trillion, exceeding pre-crisis levels; and business lending has climbed over 30 percent.

This hearing is also a reminder of how important it is that our financial system remains well-regulated, for financial stability, consumer protection, and to prevent the next crisis. 

No one wants to return to the days of 2008 and 2009.

Yet opponents of Wall Street Reform continue to say that the law has not stabilized the economy, and even that new regulations will cause the next financial crisis. 

Wall Street Reform didn’t ruin the economy, Wall Street gambling did; along with the failure of regulators to take away the punchbowl.

Since Wall Street Reform’s passage, the economy has strengthened, and we’ve made it less likely taxpayers will pay the tab for another bailout.

And polling released last week shows that Americans agree with that assessment—they overwhelmingly support strong financial rules of the road.

Some of the behavior in the economy is the product of the extraordinary interest rate environment of the past seven years. 

So it is no surprise that all eyes are on the Fed as it considers its first interest rate increase since 2008. 

There are real risks in tightening monetary policy too soon, because, although the economy has made progress since the crisis, we still have a ways to go. 

The recovery has been uneven, and there are many groups of Americans who have not benefited from it.

Premature rate increases could mean these people don’t see new jobs, wage increases, or access to credit.

The current economic problems in Greece and China also remind us that any progress our economy makes cannot be divorced from what is happening overseas.  Our manufacturers and exporters are already contending with a very strong dollar.   

Chair Yellen, I look forward to your assessment of our nation’s economy, as well as your appraisal of the progress made from the enactment and implementation of Wall Street Reform.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.