Via Politico, there is a congressional vote later today that is expected to create a commission to look into the causes of the financial crisis -- a commission modeled, roughly, on the 9/11 Commission. Yes, yes, blue-ribbon panels are supposed to be for when you don't want to get anything done. But this time everyone is promising that they really, definitely, want to get something done. For sure. From the report:
Perhaps the greatest success of the 9/11 Commission was the enormous volume of detail about the attacks that it put in the public record -- and revealing the key opportunities missed by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement to stop the plotters before the attacks.
There is a host of similar questions about the financial crisis that an investigative panel armed with subpoena power might be able to answer over time. How did shaky subprime mortgages bundled into securities manage to score high marks from Wall Street ratings agencies? Why didn't federal regulators see the meltdown coming? Was any outside influence brought to bear on the government's decisions to allow some financial institutions to fail or not fail?
I thought the 9/11 Commission Report was a good read, so I won't complain if the government wants to produce another. But it also seems to me that the financial crisis is, in its own way, a far more partisan issue than 9/11. The vote on the 9/11 Commission was unanimous (despite some opposition from the Bush administration). I don't think anyone really views the debate over, say, the stimulus as an especially joyous moment of bipartisan comity. And I don't know why we should believe the joys of economic bipartisanship are going to be discovered by 2011, which is when the new commission is expected to report back.