Forget the sequester, gun control and immigration. The most consequential challenge of Barack Obama’s second term will be to keep conservatives from undermining his landmark first term achievements, which, truth be told, dwarf anything he’s likely to get out of Congress going forward.

The Dodd-Frank reform law, for all its flaws, is a massive and potentially game-changing piece of legislation that could determine whether or not we go through another financial meltdown. But a law is just words on paper until agencies write regulations to carry it out. Two-thirds of Dodd-Frank’s regulations have yet to be finalized. So far, as Haley Sweetland Edwards reports in the latest issue of the Washington Monthly, Wall Street lobbyists, assisted by conservative judges, have succeeded in getting some of the law’s key regulations weakened, delayed or thrown out altogether.

Obamacare, if it can be made to work, will deliver health care to 27 million uninsured Americans and begin the task of reigning in health care costs. But as Phillip Longman explains, Republicans, using fear of “death panels,” got language inserted into the law that forbids government from taking cost-effectiveness into account when considering how to spend our health care dollars. In fact, it even prohibits government research into how different medications and procedures affect a patients’ quality of life, making it extraordinarily difficult for Obamacare to “bend the curve” of health care costs while improving quality.

Of course, Obamacare can be amended and Dodd-Frank’s rulemaking defended, but first, Americans have got to pay attention.

Read the cover package and the entire March/April 2013 issue of the Washington Monthly here.

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Paul Glastris is the editor in chief of the Washington Monthly. A former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, he is writing a book on America’s involvement in the Greek War of Independence.