Are the Financial Reforms Designed to Prevent Another Banking Crisis in Jeopardy?

I will never understand why people say Republicans are good for the economy.  Historically it seems to me that the kind of laissez-faire deregulation they tend to advocate produces short term economic benefit for a few, with no real gains in productivity for the nation as a whole.  The gains are illusory, and when things collapse, the results are devastating.  I worry about what Republicans will try with such an overwhelming majority in Congress.  I hope the President and Congressional Democrats remain strong.

Below is the beginning of an excellent piece from Moyers & Company that adds to my doubts.  It’s worth reading.

Republicans and Wall Street Say To Hell With Protecting the Public!

January 17, 2015 by Bill Moyers

This post first appeared on

Since December, Congress has twice passed measures to weaken regulations in the Dodd-Frank financial law that are intended to reduce the risk of another financial meltdown.

In the last election cycle, Wall Street banks and financial interests spent over $1.2 billion on lobbying and campaign contributions, according to Americans for Financial Reform. Their spending strategy appears to be working. Just this week, the House passed further legislation that would delay by two years some key provisions of Dodd-Frank. “[Banks] want to be able to do things their way, and that’s very dangerous.” MIT economist Simon Johnson tells Bill.

“‘Here we go again’ — I think that’s exactly the motto, or the bumper sticker for this Congress. It’s crazy, it’s unconscionable, but that is the reality.”

Lawmakers are pinning these provisions to Dodd-Frank onto bigger must-past bills like spending measures that the president doesn’t dare veto.

Bill Moyers: The safeguards that Congress is tearing down, even as we speak, were put in place after the financial disaster of 2008 to prevent another one like it from happening. Why do you think the Republicans are trying to sabotage them?

Read his Simon Johnson’s response and the rest of the interview at the Moyers & Company site, where you’ll also find much more coverage of the issue.


Failure to Fulfill the Obligations of Office

Breaking Down the Sequester Pie ChartIf, and it’s hard to see how they won’t, the “sequestrations” go into effect tonight, it will be a phenomenal act of cowardice on the part of Congress, particularly the Republicans, who will be getting the painful spending cuts they wants so badly, without having to make the necessary painful decisions who will be affected by those cuts.

Let’s review how the process works.

If Congress failed to produce a deficit reduction bill with at least $1.2 trillion in cuts, then Congress could grant a $1.2 trillion increase in the debt ceiling but this would trigger across-the-board cuts (“sequestrations”), as of January 2, 2013. These cuts would apply to mandatory and discretionary spending in the years 2013 to 2021 and be in an amount equal to the difference between $1.2 trillion and the amount of deficit reduction enacted from the joint committee. There would be some exemptions: reductions would apply to Medicare providers, but not to Social Security, Medicaid, civil and military employee pay, or veterans. Medicare benefits would be limited to a 2% reduction. –“2013 Sequestration,” Wikipedia

Legislators don’t have any discretion with the across-the-board cuts: They are intended to hit all affected programs equally, though the cuts to individual areas will range from 7.6 percent to 9.6 percent (and 2 percent to Medicare providers). The indiscriminate pain is meant to pressure legislators into making a budget deal to avoid the cuts. –“The sequester explained,” The Washington Post

If you are a fiscal conservative applauding this because you say that at last government is being forced to make cuts across the board, ask yourself it standards like efficiency, return on investment and the amount of waste in a program matters? Shouldn’t we cut programs that are less efficient or have more waste more than others? Sequestration defies that logic.

If you are a bleeding heart liberal like me, you’re concerns are more about impact. Let’s save programs that address real needs and cut programs that benefit those who are more likely to be able to replace them with alternative sources of revenue. Maybe we don’t need to spend so much on corporate welfare or assisting with research into commercially viable pharmaceuticals or technologies, and more on assistance to those who need it.

Shouldn’t criteria like that matter? Moreover, the fact is that the long term health of our economy requires additional revenue. Even most conservative economists admit this.

And so it is reasonable to suspect the refusal to compromise is largely political. Be able to claim you stood up to the president on tax increases, get your cuts, and not have to explain to constituents why the program that helps them or their loved ones was on the block! It’s politics at it’s worst because it’s not just rhetorical, constituents will actually suffer.

I, for one, am appalled!

NDAA and the Soul of America

Something momentous will very likely happen this week, something ominous.  So ominous that the kid that grew up reading mythology, medieval literature and fantasy, will somehow find it hard to believe if the sky doesn’t darken or the earth become sick as nature herself reproaches the nation for the wrongfulness of the path it has started down.  I am referring to the potential signing of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  No one wants to hold up funding for the military, but it contains other provisions that are simply contrary to the very essence of the American nation’s soul.  I get a lump in my throat and tight chest every time I think about this bill.

President Obama, once the hero of the narrative who came to office President Obama who “came into office pledging his dedication to the rule of law and to reversing the Bush-era policies” (Andrew Rosenthal, “Politics of Principle,” NYT, Dec. 15, 2011), is likely to sign the law making indefinite detention of American citizens a permanent fixture of American law.  They will also be subject to military tribunals.  Maybe we’re not quite at the point of using the Bill of Rights for toilet paper, but we’re at least using it as a dinner napkin.

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Congress Busy on 220th Anniversary of the Bill of Rights

US Senate voted 86 to 13 in favor of the NDAA for FY 2012

220 years ago, on the 15th of December 1791 the Bills of Rights was ratified.  The first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America enshrined in law basic freedoms for all Americans, including freedom of speech, religion, the press, assembly and the right to bear arms.  It also protects us from unlawful search and seizure, gives us the right to a trial, and protects us from excessive punishment, among other things.  It’s a good text to know, because it enshrines some of our most basic rights as a people.

On this, its 22oth anniversary, Congress was once again in session, theoretically doing the peoples business, though I am not so sure that is what they were doing.  Here are two things that marked the day for them.  You be the judge.

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The President v. The Pundit

Daniel Hernandez, President Obama and First Lady Michele Obama at the memorial event, 'Together We Thrive: Tucson and America', at the McKale Memorial Center in Tucson, Arizona, on 12 January 2011. Photograph: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

I wish the media, including NPR and PBS, would stop comparing President Obama’s popularity to that of Sarah Palin. For example, many pundits compared reaction to his speech at the memorial service for the victims of the shooting in Tucson to her videotaped statement on the subject.

Barack Obama in the President of the United States. He has to triangulate the demands of Congress and its opposing parties, the international obligations of the United States to its foreign allies, national security, and many more concerns. The decisions of the President have real consequences, and he has to make sure things happen.

Sarah Palin was, briefly, a governor. Now, however, she is a pundit and nominal leader of an ill-formed political movement. It is easy to snipe and criticize, when you don’t have to provide solutions. It so happens that her videotaped speech was highly criticized and damaged her popularity rating, whereas the Presidents speech was well received, but who cares how they compare. If the President’s comments are to be compared to anyone’s, it ought to be to John Boehner, Mitch NcConnell, or a prominent Senator. Essentially any national figure from the Republican party in a policy making role would be more appropriate, not Sarah Palin, whose opinions have no real consequences.

Policy ≠ Politics

President Obama announces the compromise.

A couple days ago the White House and Congressional Republicans reached a compromise on issues that included extending the Bush tax cuts and unemployment benefits.  It took a while.  In the press conference announcing the agreement, President Obama commented that the agreement is not what he wanted, but said that Republicans were holding tax cuts for the Middle Class and an unemployment benefits extension “hostage.”  Many in the Democratic base oppose the compromise, seeing it as capitulation rather than compromise, and are resistant to approval.

Mainstream media has been providing blow by blow coverage of this process.  The tell us which side which wants what but not in a lot of detail and not why.  For the most part they spend their time speculating about the impact that whatever compromise might be reached will have on the 2012 elections.  Then they let party representatives and their surrogates in the punditry argue about what agreements might be better and for the nation and how.

It’s all very entertaining.  There is drama, conflict, suspense.  Who is winning the skirmish as the pundits argue?  Who will win the battle when the legislation ultimately makes it out of Congress?  Most importantly, who’s likely to win the war in 2012!

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Don’t Take My Tax Cut! And Get a Job!

Petition: Tell Congress: Protect Workers, NOT Millionaires!

Senator Scott Brown made a fiery speech a couple of days ago as he blocked the Senate from considering an extension of unemployment benefits. He said that first we need to find a way to pay for those benefits without raising the deficit. At last report the unemployment rate in this country stands at 9.7% and Brown wants to put their ability to buy groceries, pay their bills, mortgage or rent payments in doubt while Congress turns its attention to the deficit.

I believe that Washington has finally turned its attention to the deficit in earnest, and that Brown’s theatrics are not necessary.  The report that bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform has just been released provides outstanding recommendations for debt reduction. Holding the unemployed hostage during the holiday season is little more than political theater. Brown needed an issue to distinguish himself on, and he chose this. Nice, Senator! Pick on the unemployed. They’re so busy job hunting they won’t be paying much attention!

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The Senator, the Unemployed and the Millionaires

Read: "Congress lets unemployment benefits expire: 'What now' and six other questions

Senator Scott Brown blocked the extension of unemployment benefits for millions of Americans.

About 8,400 Americans will see their unemployment benefits cut off by the end of this week, according to the Labor Department. By the end of the third week of December, aid to 1.36 million Americans will be interrupted, the agency said.

Brown says that we can’t afford the extension and that we need to start focusing on “what is important,” the federal deficit.

The unemployment rate in this country still hovers around 9.6%. That seems pretty important to me. Unemployment benefits help people without work to pay their bills, put food on their tables, get medical care, and enjoy the holidays!  Moreover, virtually all of the benefits paid out to the unemployed go back into the economy. They are not hoarded, put in savings accounts or invested abroad.

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Frank v. Beilat, No Contest

The top mailing was meant to give me three reasons for firing Barney Frank, but in fact the mailings themselves were 3 reasons NOT to vote for Sean Beilat!

When I picked up my mail today I found a magazine, a fund raising appeal, and four political mailings relating to the elections next week, three of which were targeted against Congressman Barney Frank.  According to the first mailing, Americans for Limited Government believe he “no longer represents ‘us'” and that Nancy Pelosi “has him in the palm of her hand.”  Sean Beilat for Congress sent two mailings.  The first claims that Frank “and his “rich friends… live by a different set of rules,” and  the other that provides three reasons why voters should “fire Barney Frank on November 2,” claiming he caused the financial meltdown, bailed out friends in the financial sector, and accepted vacations from the people who got federal bail out money.

These claims are, at best, exaggerations, some of them outright falsehoods.  They are examples of some pretty intense negative campaigning and an obvious attempt to mislead the public.  Quotations are taken out of context, presented in the mailing to look like press clippings, and topped with the logos from the newspapers’ mastheads so they look like actual published news articles, when in fact they are taken from opinion pieces or editorials.  They are not objective analyses.

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What were Tuesday’s Elections About?

There is no doubt that there is a lot of frustration across the country with Washington. There always is some simmering level of it. It’s in the nature of the American psyche to be suspicious of the establishment. But in their analysis of a small number of off-year and off-season election results on Tuesday, the media has really overstated the case. They’re looking for a story, I suppose. In fact, I don’t think that was much of an issue at all.
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