Sunday, February 7, 2010

Why Congress Doesn’t Stand Up to Wall Street

Robert Reich’s column on this is quite good.

corruption Senator Chris Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, scolded Wall Street representatives at a hearing Thursday for sending “an army of lobbyists whose only mission is to kill the common-sense financial reforms” needed by the public. “The fact is,” Dodd said, “I am frustrated, and so are the American people.” He charged that Wall Street’s intransigence was the reason for Congress’s failure to pass any bill to regulate the Street. “The refusal of large financial firms to work constructively with Congress on this effort borders on insulting to the American people who have lost so much in this crisis.”

In other words, it isn’t Congress’s fault. It isn’t the Senate Banking Committee’s fault. It certainly isn’t Dodd’s fault. The reason more than a year has passed since the biggest bailout in the history of the world and nothing has been done to prevent a repeat performance — even as the biggest banks are doling out more than $30 billion of bonuses, even as Goldman Sachs is awarding its big traders $16 billion in bonuses (more than the $13 billion Goldman collected from taxpayers via the bailout of AIG), even as AIG itself is handing out bonuses — the reason is … what, exactly, Senator? Because the Street has sent an army of lobbyists to Capitol Hill?

Call me old fashioned, but I thought Congress was in charge of passing legislation, not Wall Street.

Dodd left out the most telling detail, of course. Wall Street is where the campaign money is. Dodd of all people knows that. He’s been on the receiving end of lots of it over the years.

Wall Street firms and their executives have been uniquely generous to both political parties, emerging recently as one of the largest benefactors of the Democratic Party. Between November 2008 and November 2009, Wall Street firms and executives handed out $42 million to lawmakers, mostly to members of the House and Senate banking committees and House and Senate leaders. During the 2008 elections, Wall Street showered Democratic candidates with well over $88 million and Republicans with over $67 million, putting the Street right up there with the insurance industry as among the nation’s largest equal-opportunity donors.

Some Democrats are quietly grumbling that all the tough talk emanating from the White House in recent weeks — the President calling the Street’s denizens “fat cats” and threatening them with limits on their size and the risks they can take, even waiving a watered-down version of Glass-Steagall in their faces — is making it harder to collect money from the Street this mid-term election year. And the Street is quietly threatening that it may well give Republicans more, if the saber-rattling doesn’t stop.

Congress isn’t doing a thing about Wall Street because it’s in the pocket of Wall Street. Dodd’s outburst at the Street is like the alcoholic who screams at a bartender “how dare you give me another drink when all I’ve done is pleaded with you for one!”…

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He’s right.  We have the best Congress money can buy… and has.  The only way to return government to the people is 100% public financing, at least at the federal level.  Until and unless we accomplish that goal, Congress will represent those who bought them, not those whop voted them in.


the walking man said...

I personally would like to see no financing involved beyond what can be raised in individual donations of $25 or less. If I have a message that resonates then it will get out. If not then it won't.

You know that looking up who is taking money from whom is such a pain in the ass, a necessary evil, if you are to vote with informed conscience. I really am frustrated enough to simply close my eyes in the primary and pick someone who hasn't ever been to congress before, regardless of MI's serving senators record.

TOM said...

The start of the Constitution "We the People" speaks to the intent of the Constitution to be describing the rights of people, not corporate entities. Many times throughout the Constitution, the words of the document refer to the rights of individual people.
No place in the Constitution, does the document refer to corp[orate entities.
Nowhere in the Constitution, is money given legal protection. Money is not free speech. What people do with their money, that act, may have rights of protection, money itself, does not.
Clearly, taking the money out of the political and election process, can only be good, for keeping the vote of the individual voter secure.

TomCat said...

Mark, I unnderstand your frustration, but believe we are obligated to vote for the least worst if there is no best with a chance.

Tom, I fully agree. Unfortunately, activist GOP Justices have undermined the Constitution.