Friday, December 10, 2010

Attacking Sanders, Exonerating Wall Street

One of the few real Democrats, Bernard Sanders of Vermont, in the U.S. Senate talked for hours and hours in the chamber yesterday. Republicans threaten filibusters, as they have done in record numbers since Barack Obama became president. Sanders, with the help of a couple of Democrats, actually is principled enough to stand up and defend the middle class for several hours at a time.

He was, therefore, a prime target of one of America's leading critics of the middle class, whose members are painted as worthless, the "non-producers" to the nation's "producers." In criticizing one portion of Sanders' statement, Rush Limbaugh claimed

The government is more irresponsible with money than they private sector. The private sector is not trying to pick our pockets at every turn, even when we die. It isn't trying to take control of our lives. The private sector is doing none of the evil the government is doing. The real greed in this country is in Washington and at every one of the 50 state capitals.

In April, delivering a statement as a subcommittee chairman, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) described the process of bringing the economy down:

Demand for securities prompted lenders to make more and riskier mortgage loans. Making and packaging new loans became so profitable that credit standards plummeted and mortgage lenders began making risky, exotic loans to people with little chance of making the payments. Wall Street designed increasingly complex financial products that produced AAA ratings for high-risk products that flooded the financial system.

Not surprisingly, Limbaugh never has explained Wall Street's culpability to his listeners. Nor did he explain what "greed" or "evil" he was talking about. But without using the perjorative terms, without baseless accusations, Joe Nocera, author of "All the Devils Are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis," told Amy Goodman last month

Here’s what surprised me most, the extent to which Wall Street was dictating to the subprime companies about their lending practices and the extent to which Wall Street knew exactly how bad these loans were and yet encouraged them to make worse and worse loans.

I’ll give you one example, we actually have an e-mail or a memo in the book where a Wall Street guy goes to visit one of the big subprime companies and he says, “You stopped lending – you won’t lend below a 620 FICO Score, you know that’s a credit score for a person who wants to buy a house – your competitor down the street, their lending at 580 FICO scores. We want you to drop your standards forty more points to be as bad as them.”

All the features- being "irresponsible with money"; "trying to pick our pockets" ; "trying to take control of our lives"; and "greed" - Rush ascribes to government were a hallmark of Wall Street, as it put the squeeze on lenders to extend a mortgage to borrowers they knew were unlikely to be able to repay the loan. But of course, Rush Limbaugh would cover for Wall Street and blame government and the private homeowner. In his world, it is Bernie Sanders who has "taken this country into bankruptcy." (Limbaugh blamed the Vermont Senator for "bankruptcy"- really.)

Characteristically, Limbaugh took the opportunity to attack Sanders personally, in the way in which he specializes- for not making enough money.

It's all because you're just jealous. You wish you had a billion dollars a year. But you haven't the foggiest notion how to make more than what you're already making, $175,000 or whatever your Senate salary is, which is, I can tell you, you're not even worth that, as far your employees are concerned, us.

Along the way, someone might tell Rush Limbaugh that Bernie Sanders represents the people of Vermont, not "us," by which Limbaugh presumably means the American people. And that the people are not "employees" of United States Senators. But then, when you have only contempt for average Americans, that might be a concept this talk show host can't fathom.

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