William Safire, nine years ago, in the New York Times:
''Mere size is no sin,'' William Howard Taft is supposed to have said, refuting the trustbusting philosophy of his predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt. (At the time of the apocryphal remark, Taft weighed 300 pounds.)
When a big bank on the West Coast decides to merge with a big East Coast bank, that doesn't bother me. All the stuff about synergies and cost-saving layoffs and global reach will be meaningless soon enough; future banking will be done on the Internet, every home a branch, and today's giants will be undercut by speedy cyberbankers unencumbered by overhead.
Far more troubling is the kind of marriage proposed by Citibank and the Travelers Group of insurance companies and stock brokerage. That would require changing the law that keeps banks — where individual deposits are insured up to $100,000 by the Federal Government — separate from other enterprises.
With remarkable chutzpah, these companies have embarked on a course that blithely assumes that change in law.
They think they can count on Republicans in Congress who say that the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act is a Depression-era relic. Fears that a market collapse could affect banks are old hat, these descendants of Dr. Pangloss insist. Break down the fire wall and let the Federal Reserve keep a benign eye on everything financial; we don't even have to fear fear itself.