Barney Frank: Wall Street reform critics missing the mark

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When asked, Frank said the biggest change he would have made to the final product is how it was paid for. Instead of $20 billion of the bill's price tag being put on taxpayers, he would have liked to see that amount billed to large financial institutions.

Frank and his co-sponsor, retired Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), agreed to trim the institution fee in order to win Republican support for the measure, according to Frank, who plans to retire at the end of 2012.

Beyond the cost of the bill, Frank said he wished the measure was slightly tougher on derivatives. And if he had a "magic wand," he would want to see two main Wall Street regulators, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), combined into a single entity.   

But he acknowledged such a merger would "never" happen, because the SEC represents financial markets while the CFTC represents farmers.

Frank also contended that the housing market, which is still struggling, took a turn for the worse thanks in large part to the lame-duck period between the election of President Obama and his inauguration.

Frank wanted some funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to be used to boost the housing market. He had asked former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, "the last man home" in the Bush White House, to use the funds to push banks to provide mortgage relief, but said he would only do it if the president-elect's team asked for it.

The Obama team refused to ask, and it didn't happen.

"During the critical period when the TARP was being administered, there was a vacuum of political leadership," said Frank. "At one point, Obama said, 'Well, we only have one president at a time.' I said I was afraid that overstated the number of presidents. We had no president."