Rahm Emanuel, the president’s chief of staff, is widely derided for his now infamous quote: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” But there may actually be some sage wisdom locked away in this partisan sound bite when it comes to curing our nation’s financial system.

Stocks and bonds, as well as the morale of many, surged following last week’s declaration of the end of the recession by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Yes, the national unemployment rate still continues to hover just below double-digits, but there’s no doubt the announcement will return some long-lost confidence to the markets that has yet to be captured in polls.

Obviously, this is a good thing. But the question remains: Have we undergone enough reform in the past two years to prevent the same problems from recurring, or are we poised for another recession when the next bubble bursts?

One of the only positive aspects about an economic downturn is that we can learn from it to make sure it never repeats itself. Former Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon suggested in the 1930s that the Great Depression would “purge the rottenness out of the system.” The concept that Emanuel and Mellon allude to can be applied to all walks of life. Different words, same idea.

What worries me is that Congress could lose much of its impetus for financial reform as a result of this crisis supposedly being over. After all, is it still an urgent priority to reform if we aren’t even in a recession? I’m worried we may just let the recession go to waste and return to business as usual. I’m concerned we may lose our urgency here, just as we did with climate change and gas prices when the economy suddenly stole the show in the fall of 2008.

However, simply being told the recession is over doesn’t suddenly place food on the table. 10 percent unemployment is still very real and many Americans worry about the possibility of a double-dip recession when stimulus money runs out. A lack of long-term confidence isn’t really a good thing, but it does make us proceed with caution, which isn’t always a given.

The European economy was hit hard by both the global credit crunch and sovereign debt crises. As a result, the European Union became all about financial reform and austerity. Now the unexpected economic success of the past quarter is widely interpreted to mean Europe has weathered the crises. As a result, the momentum behind further reform is stalling.

But even EU leaders concede this success is pretty much an accident and they don’t expect it to continue. This past quarter, exports led the German economy to grow at its fastest rate since the fall of the Berlin Wall and a few of Germany’s neighbors posted similar results. But the countries in trouble remained in trouble as economists continued their calls for reform, warning about unsustainable growth.

This is the path we don’t want to take, which could lead to the dreaded double-dip recession. This is where I worry we could forget Emanuel and Mellon’s words and let this crisis go to waste if we follow in Europe’s footsteps. As of now, we don’t appear to be doing so, but after the way the energy bill was scrapped this summer, I have reason for concern.

As The Economist said earlier this month when referencing the massive growth of Latin America after its 1980s sovereign debt issues, the idea of radical reform ended up paying off and Europe should be taking note of this success. And even though nobody is talking about an American sovereign debt crisis, we should be taking notes as well before we talk about emerging from this mess for good.

Perhaps we won’t let a good crisis go to waste. Perhaps we’re doing our due diligence to purge the rottenness from the system. And perhaps the negative, skeptical views seen in polls are exactly what we need. For that, we may be the envy of Europe.

Roger Sauerhaft is an LSA senior.

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