I have no evidence that Jon Stewart’s silly denigration of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that I helped pass in 2010 was motivated by the fact that I have been a frequent critic of the substance of his work (as distinct from his humor, which I admire.) But it so clearly illustrated what troubled me about his approach that I am ignoring the conventional wisdom that responding at length to criticism that was barely noticed is counterproductive.

In the last installment of “The Daily Show” in August, Stewart included the law in his list of “BS,” asserting that all that was needed was a simple legal requirement that the banks not lose the pension money, then waving the thick stack of pages that we adopted as a contrast. He could not have stated the case made by the financial services industry against serious reform of their practices more graphically – or more incorrectly.

Nor could he have more clearly contradicted much of his own previous commentary on the subject. On one show, as we were fighting off industry efforts to put the various sections of the law into specific regulations, he sharply criticized the pace at which this was proceeding, arguing that the promise of major change in damaging, irresponsible wheeling and dealing was being broken. But if all that was called for was the simple “don’t lose the pension money” statement he cited to ridicule the complexity of the bill, the provisions whose slow implementation he lamented were beside the point. It cannot be the case both that most of the bill’s sections were unnecessary and that a failure promptly to put them into effect was causing harm.

He was especially at odds with himself with regard to one very important part of the law that would not have been included had we confined ourselves to restricting banks’ handling of “the pension money”: the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Giving the consumers of financial products an independent advocate is clearly distinct from restricting the investment activities of the institutions.

There are other provisions of the bill that I would have expected Stewart to welcome until I heard his objection to its scope. My strong guess is that many of his viewers would have laughed less as he decried the bill’s bulk if they realized that among the victims of his call for diminishing it would have been the section just implemented requiring companies to publish the ratio between its most highly paid executives and the bulk of their work force. To be explicit, this has nothing to do with protecting the pension money.

Neither does the section we included at the urging of Bono, from the band U2 – not someone usually scorned as an obfuscator by Stewart’s audience – that American companies engaged in extracting valuable materials overseas make public all of the money they paid to officials for that privilege. Bono has described this as a major step to force a fairer sharing of the wealth in countries that are resource rich.

Even where the goal is to prevent financial institutions from reckless gambling with the funds entrusted to them, Stewart’s call for brevity is wholly mistaken. No one – or 10 or 100 – sentences could have covered the wide range of carefully crafted, sophisticated practices that led to the crisis. As Thomas Schoenbaum summarizes in his book, “The Age of Austerity,” “Dodd-Frank addresses and imposes solutions for the practices and defects of the financial system exposed by the crisis: securitizations, derivatives, non-performing mortgages, financial companies’ reckless risk-taking, the entire sad litany of causes of the crisis is addressed.”

Very complex problems rarely have easy, simple solutions. Pretending that they do – and I think Stewart does know better – works well to perpetuate the theme that government rarely gets anything right, and in this case was undoubtedly welcomed by the major financial institutions which wish we had legislated as inadequately as he advocated. Since he has now discontinued his show, I will have no way to engage here in what I have always found to be the great joy of saying I told you so. But I have no doubt that if his show had gone on and the financial industry did get its wish to roll back regulation to fit the parameters he claimed to have preferred, no one would have cited this retreat as an example of the corruption of government more gleefully than Stewart himself. Nothing in his treatment of this issue suggests he would have let intellectual consistency get in the way.

Barney Frank is a retired congressman and the author of landmark legislation. He divides his time between Maine and Massachusetts.

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