What Global Regulator Does Obama Have In Mind?

In his speech to the United Nations’ General Assembly on Wednesday, President Obama listed his four priorities—or, as Obama likes to say, “four pillars”—for the future of the United States. Pillar one: nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament; two: peace and security; three: preservation of the planet; four: a global economy.

What exactly is the president building with that type of material?

Expounding on pillar four, the president said, “That means vigilance to ensure that we do not let up until our people are back to work. That means taking steps to rekindle demand so that global recovery can be sustained. And that means setting new rules of the road and strengthening regulation for all financial centers, so that we put an end to the greed and the excess and the abuse that led us into this disaster, and prevent a crisis like this from ever happening again.”

Members of the Obama administration have been talking about his desire to overhaul the regulatory system for months. The curiosity is why Obama brought the issue to the table at the U.N. It raises further concerns after comments he made in his weekly address Sept. 19 about strengthening financial regulatory rules “in conjunction with nations around the world.”

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has also hinted previously about Obama’s vision for border-crossing regulatory reform. At a financial ministerial meeting for G8 countries in June, Geithner said, “Because risk does not respect borders, we will put forward several international proposals in our reform package that will help to raise standards globally.”

Obama has repeatedly called for a “regulator” or Consumer Financial Protection Agency that would monitor financial institutions in order to protect consumers. Merging existing supervisory agencies into a sort of “super-regulatory” agency has prompted controversy. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has campaigned against the idea, and growing dissent prompted the House Financial Services Committee to drop certain standardization rules from the legislation in order to avoid further burdening financial institutions.

However, as demonstrated in the continuing debate over health care reform, Obama does not change his Obama’s mind easily. Obama described his vision of the future to the U.N. first by negation: one where no nation or group dominates another. Instead, Obama’s “world order” would be characterized by global interests, an objective that linked together the president’s four main goals.

Does he have in mind some sort of U.N.-based super-regulatory agency outside the U.S. government?

Whatever Obama’s trying to build, he seems to be laying down the foundation in New York.