Stop Protecting Big Banks: End the War on Cryptocurrencies
COMMENTARY

February 17, 2021by Albert Wynn
Albert Wynn is a former Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Maryland’s 4th District. He served on the House Financial Services Committee.

On the day President Joe Biden was sworn into office, he ordered a freeze on the blizzard of last-minute rules that the Trump Administration tried to ram through in its final days. They were a grab bag of favors to Republican special interests and big business that Biden immediately put under review before allowing them to take effect. Buried in the provisions to roll back protections for workers, immigrants and the environment were leftover actions by Trump’s appointees aimed at crushing U.S. innovators who are working to offer millions of American citizens and small businesses easier, cheaper and safer ways to transact money, challenging generations of inequality fed by the practices of big banks.

Fintech developers are using blockchain and cryptocurrency technology to bring these services to the general public, and banking lobbyists have been busy trying to stop them. Billions of dollars in monopolistic fees are in danger from these new payment systems that eliminate the bank as the middle man, and Trump’s acolytes were all too eager to wage what has been dubbed “the Crypto Cold War” over the last four years. But that war turned hot in the final days, with two high-profile attacks from Trump’s Treasury Department.

First, a week before Christmas, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin unveiled industry-shaking rule changes for U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchanges that many said would be nearly impossible to comply with and remain in business. They’d either face oppressive operational and administrative burdens or be forced to shut down. Worse yet, the rulemaking set a 15-day comment period, which Coinbase, one of the leading cryptocurrency exchanges, explained was “obviously impossible”.

Days later, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a lawsuit against the San Francisco-based software developer Ripple, one of the biggest companies in the blockchain industry, and two of its senior executives. The company offers cross-border payments solutions that threaten the SWIFT monopoly controlled by the world’s largest banks. The lawsuit claimed that XRP, the world’s third biggest cryptocurrency which Ripple has used for nearly a decade to power its payments software products, was allegedly an unregistered security when they distributed the token seven years ago. Hours after the lawsuit was filed, Trump’s appointed SEC chairman, Jay Clayton, left his post, followed soon after by the lawyer he’d tasked to lead the Ripple case only five months after he’d been hired.

The Biden Administration needs to recognize the motivations behind both actions, carried out by Republican appointees who fought for their rich and powerful friends every day they were in power. The Ripple lawsuit needs to be re-examined and the Treasury rules on coin exchanges should be reversed. We need to keep responsible American cryptocurrency exchanges in this country and encourage them to continue innovating. Coinbase, Ripple and other industry players have been pleading with Washington to develop a comprehensive regulatory framework that will safeguard all the enormous benefits of this technology, particularly for the underbanked, while also protecting consumers and investors from fraud and the nation from money laundering and other criminal uses. We did it in the 1990s with the internet, and we can do it now with financial technology.

Unfortunately, the United States continues to trail other nations in nurturing this technology along, but it can’t continue. Democrats have embraced their progressive roots by embracing green technology and the enormous promise of a green economy. This same vision has to be applied to blockchain technology, which can democratize finance and money. How else can we possibly tackle economic injustice if we aren’t willing to break out of the structural inequalities of our financial system?

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Gary Gensler, Biden’s nominee to head the SEC, have a unique, and potentially historic, opportunity to embrace the benefits of blockchain technology and work in partnership with visionaries racing to unlock its revolutionary benefits. They can start with ending the war on cryptocurrencies and joining hands with American innovators striving to put them to good use for our economy and our people.


Albert Wynn is a former Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Maryland’s 4th District. He served on the House Financial Services Committee.

In The News

Health

Voting

Opinions

Becerra Confirmation Crucial to Addressing Health Inequities Deepened by the COVID-19 Pandemic
Opinions
Becerra Confirmation Crucial to Addressing Health Inequities Deepened by the COVID-19 Pandemic

The fight against the COVID-19 pandemic has become more complicated, despite the breakneck speed of vaccine development. The country is facing the dual challenges of combating the spread of new variants of the virus while coordinating a nationwide vaccination effort. The need for strong health care... Read More

How to Spot the Moderate
Opinions
How to Spot the Moderate
February 20, 2021
by How to Spot the Moderate

Can you spot the moderate? Ok, not Joe Manchin. That’s too easy. Spot the other one. You found her! Rep. Sharice Davids, the first congressional Democrat from Kansas in a decade was recently re-elected to her second term. A former mixed martial artist and lawyer, she... Read More

Stop Protecting Big Banks: End the War on Cryptocurrencies
Opinions
Stop Protecting Big Banks: End the War on Cryptocurrencies

On the day President Joe Biden was sworn into office, he ordered a freeze on the blizzard of last-minute rules that the Trump Administration tried to ram through in its final days. They were a grab bag of favors to Republican special interests and big business... Read More

Macron is Becoming Everything Trump Should Have Been
Opinions
Macron is Becoming Everything Trump Should Have Been
February 16, 2021
by Rachel Marsden

The gatekeepers of the establishment status quo don’t have Donald Trump to kick around anymore. Except that Trump’s voters — more than 74 million of them — aren’t going anywhere. These are people who chose Trump despite all of the daily shenanigans, tweets and drama, and... Read More

Trump is History; it’s Biden who’s Changing America
Opinions
Trump is History; it’s Biden who’s Changing America
February 15, 2021
by Robert B. Reich

While most of official Washington has been consumed with the Senate impeachment trial, another part of Washington is preparing the most far-ranging changes in American social policy in a generation. Congress is moving ahead with President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which expands health care and... Read More

Vaccine Education is the Key to Saving Our Communities
Opinions
Vaccine Education is the Key to Saving Our Communities

All eyes are on the vaccine rollout. We’ve all observed the challenges our government has faced supplying and distributing vaccines, as well as some of the early learnings. It would be easy to point fingers or poke holes in the perceived lack of progress. We could... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top