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Where cashmeets trash

So much attention is being paid to reforming America's strict banking laws these days that few seem to spare a thought for the committees at the House of Representatives which have to decide on the issue.

Last month, chairman of the US Federal Reserve Board Alan Greenspan was so busy warning politicians about the dangers of making too many changes to the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act that he didn't even blink at the name of the forum he was addressing: the sub-committee on finance and hazardous materials.

Some might be tempted to draw associations between the two, or even to link the title in some convoluted way to the prevailing view of high finance following the 1929 crash, which prompted Glass-Steagall. But the reality is even more bizarre.

"Responsibility for monitoring finance is divided between three not altogether compatible committees," says one Washington insider, "agriculture, which looks after commodities, banking and commerce, which has jurisdiction over securities and various other financial issues."

Diluting matters further, the banking committee looks after housing programmes, and bankruptcy and fraud come under yet another committee, judiciary.

As part of its broad-based coverage, the commerce committee also has responsibility for transport and the clean air act.

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