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GAO to tally cost of the financial crisis

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The Government Accountability Office will conduct a wide study on the harm the recent financial crisis caused the U.S. economy, local governments and family households. Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), chair of the Senate Banking Committee, made the request Wednesday. He also sent a letter to top federal regulators asking for reports on how they are developing the new financial rules under the Dodd-Frank Act. The GAO will consider the toll of mass unemployment; both near-term and long-term losses of economic output; the disappearance of household wealth; and the strain put upon local and state governments. The office will also study the effect of the Troubled Asset Relief Program and other emergency actions taken, and how Dodd-Frank allows regulators to respond to future crises. Top federal regulators, including the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau were tasked with reporting how new rules would impact the economy, both benefits and costs. Rule-makers were also asked to provide current and future plans of regulatory reviews; details on how the public is included in the process; how they're considering the effect on smaller institutions; and how they are coordinating with the Financial Stability Oversight Council. With the requests, Johnson is attempting to gather the data and narrative necessary to weigh the promised benefits in Dodd-Frank to repair and protect an economy still recovering from over-leveraged Wall Street firms against what top Republicans are calling over-burdensome reaction to a situation they say the government started to begin with. In the GOP presidential nominee debate Wednesday night, Republican front-runners including Mitt Romney, Herman Cain and Rick Perry said they would repeal most if not all of Dodd-Frank if elected to office. "The reason we have the housing crisis we have is that the federal government played to0 heavy a role in our markets," Romney said. Johnson, however, reiterated that he would resist any attempt repeal anything under Dodd-Frank in order to restrict banks from the abusive and negligent lending and leveraging that took place in the run-up. "We must not forget that our economy suffered from inadequate regulations that contributed to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression," Johnson said. Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter @JonAPrior.

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