Better Markets is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this month. To mark the event, Better Markets will publish a series of blog posts profiling members of its staff and highlighting the work they do as lawyers, regulatory and legislative specialists, researchers, administrators, and fundraisers as they fight for the economic security, opportunity and prosperity of all Americans, particularly those who are disenfranchised.
Spotlight: Jeremy Bratt, Director of External Affairs, Better Markets
Background: As director of external affairs, Jeremy works to strengthen relationships with allies in the non-profit and business sectors and to promote the work of Better Markets before Congress and regulatory agencies. When Jeremy joined Better Markets five years ago, he brought with him extensive knowledge in public policy and government relations as well as more than 15 years of experience in Congress and the executive branch. This includes serving as Deputy Director of Congressional and Legislative Affairs at the Department of the Interior and working in the U.S. Senate as legislative director for Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) This combination of Hill and public policy experience is invaluable to the work that Better Markets does each and every day.
There are many groups working in Washington, D.C., to better the financial lives of Americans. What sets Better Markets apart?
You’re right; there are a lot of different groups in D.C. working on issues that are important to Americans’ wallets and bank accounts.
Some of those groups use the power of grassroots organizing to mobilize hundreds of thousands—or even millions—of emails and letters to elected officials. Others work exclusively on the political side, working to elect members of Congress who agree with them on the issues.
Better Markets takes a different approach. Although we work to educate members of Congress and their staff about how changes to the law might make our financial system less safe, our specialty is in shaping the implementation of the law after it’s passed.
At Better Markets, we spend a lot of time and energy during the often-overlooked but critical period after a law is passed—when regulators at the Department of the Treasury or the Securities and Exchange Commission or any number of other agencies are trying to figure out how to put the law into place and enforce it.
Lots of groups work on getting a law passed by Congress, but far fewer work on the implementation phase. That means that Wall Street’s lobbyists and the big banks face less opposition in their never-ending fight to eliminate all financial protection rules. And because the rulemaking process is more complex and more difficult for the public to view, Wall Street and the big banks are able to use their influence without much scrutiny.
Better Markets’ success is obvious as it celebrates 10 years in 2020. What do you believe are a few reasons for its longevity?
Better Markets has a great staff of former regulators, former Congressional staff, attorneys and others who have worked inside the key financial protection agencies and who know how the system works. That means we’re able to go toe-to-toe with Wall Street’s lobbyists and fight them on their own turf.
We do this by meeting with the key staff and officials at regulatory agencies—think of them as the cops on the beat who are responsible for keeping the banks and Wall Street in line. We also write detailed, deep-in-the-weeds comment letters with our perspective on what it takes to keep the financial system safe from future crashes. And when it’s necessary, we’re not afraid to work in the courts to hold regulators to account for their decisions or to sue to make sure that the public’s interest—not Wall Street’s interests—are being put first.
What are you most proud of regarding Better Markets, its work and your role as director of external affairs?
In many ways, Americans are still paying for the estimated $20 trillion—or more!—that the 2008 financial crisis cost us. At the bottom line of all the work we do at Better Markets is fighting to make sure that the big banks never again are able to hold the American people hostage by demanding trillions of dollars in taxpayer bailouts to avoid crashing the economy.
One of the underappreciated costs of the 2008 financial crisis is that when the federal government had to bail out the big banks to keep them from destroying the economy, it cost us more than just the money we were handing over to the banks. We also paid the price in the missed opportunity to make investments in countless other areas of the public interest.
Public health, making college more affordable, saving the environment, investing in arts and humanities, addressing climate change, even longer-term goals like space exploration…all of these priorities were put on hold, or in some cases canceled outright, because we simply didn’t have the money to move forward with them. That money—our tax dollars, paid by each and every one of us—instead was used to prop up some of the largest and most profitable banks in the world, to prevent them from torpedoing the economy.
One of the things I’m most proud of at Better Markets is that we are working to make sure that this never happens again. Whatever happens to the economy, or to the stock market, whether our fortunes rise or fall, we must never again be held hostage by Wall Street and forced to pay the price for the risky bets and gambling of the big banks.