I found a recent PBS Frontline documentary that is well worth watching, if you have roughly an hour to set aside. For some reason I can't get the video to embed, so just follow the link. It deals with a woman by the name of Brooksley Born, who headed the Commodities Futures Trading Commission during the mid-1990s. Born became alarmed by the rise of the shady derivatives market on Wall Street and its potential to cause...well, basically what happened last fall. She attempted to use her authority at the CFTC to reign in the derivatives market after the near-collapse of a major hedge fund. This is the story of how Alan Greenspan, Larry Summers and Bob Rubin (and to a lesser extent Tim Geithner)--all Clinton Administration economic advisers--bowed to bank pressure and led the charge to shut her up, cripple her agency and leave Wall Street to its own devices. It's also instructive, because many of the same folks are now back in power at the Obama White House. Comforting.
I hope President Obama (and all succeeding presidents) will learn 2008's lesson: some regulations exist for a reason. No clear-thinking American would suggest we don't need checks and balances in our government; the idea that we should remove them from our financial system should be seen for the absurdity that it is.