Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner swung back at critics of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law Thursday, arguing that those detractors are pushing for a repeat of the financial crisis.
Both in Congress and on the campaign trail, the Obama administration's reforms have come under fire. Lawmakers are pushing several bills that would repeal portions of the law, and every major Republican candidate has vowed to kill it as one of their first acts in office.
But Geithner said such a rollback would merely make the United States more vulnerable to another financial crisis while the country is still struggling to dig out from the last.
"Remember 2008, 2009, remember the fact that the reason we're living with very high unemployment ... is because of the failures that caused this crisis in the financial system," he said. "If you want to go back to that ... then you should be in favor of repeal of the law."
Geithner also argued that GOP and industry efforts to slow implementation of the sweeping reform law are doing more harm than good for the U.S. economy.
"Those who are working to slow the pace of reform will only increase uncertainty and they will damage our efforts to get the rest of the world to adopt a level playing field," he told reporters.
A common critique of the financial sector overhaul is that its many reforms are keeping financial institutions on the sidelines, tightening access to the credit needed to keep the economy growing. But Geithner said there is "no credible evidence" Dodd-Frank was harming the recovery.
"If you look at almost any measure ... the broad measures of the ability of the financial system to help recovery look pretty good."
Geithner touted the law, which has been on the books for a year and a half while regulators work to get it into place. He called 2012 a "key year" for it, because many of its moving pieces transition from ideas in the law to realities in the marketplace.
"These are tough reforms. They are tough where they need to be tough," he said. "But they leave our financial system safer."
However, another economic area where he was less optimistic for significant progress was the housing market. While he hailed the White House's recent steps to help struggling homeowners and boost the market, he acknowledged that a comprehensive overhaul of the housing market is not likely to come during this campaign year.
"Realistically, we don't expect to legislate this year," he said. "Maybe we could be surprised, but I think that's unlikely."
Instead, he said he hoped the coming year would allow the government to "make progress building the foundations of reforms to the housing finance system."