Thursday, July 03, 2014

No, Both Sides Don't Do It.

Barry Ritholtz of Bloomberg View is annoyed- and Steve M. of There Is No Spoon, Hullabaloo, and the Ventura County (CA.) Democratic Central Committee is annoyed with Barry Ritholtz.

Ritholtz cites the increase in student loan interest rates as "but one example out of thousands of an inability to perform basic duties." He maintains "there are three groups to blame for he gross dereliction of duty we have seen from  this do-nothing Congress": the Federal Reserve, the Supreme Court, and the American voter for the lowest turnout rates of any democracy.

Atkins will have none of it, noting

"Congress" could have fixed the student loan problem? Not with Republicans in charge. "Congress" could have fixed the corporatocracy? Really? The last major act of Congress saw Democrats singlehandedly create a slightly more humane healthcare system that, for all its marked progressive improvements, was still a corporate giveaway--and get flamed as Communists for their trouble with little media pushback as Republicans told seniors that Democrats were taking away their Social Security to give it to poor people.

Maybe the reason that voter turnout is higher in other countries might have something to do with their parliamentary systems and better protections for workers? Maybe it has to do with not having elections bought and paid for, or a system of government expressly designed to protect the status quo as much as possible?

The student loan debacle, singled out by Ritholtz, demonstrates the vacuousness of the argument made by the Bloomberg columnist.  The Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act would have permitted individuals with outstanding student loan debt (generally around 7 percent) to refinance their loans at 3.86%, the rate set for new borrowers under the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act passed by Congress last summer. Sponsored by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the bill was co-sponsored by 44 members, 35 of them before it was reported by committee, nine additional afterward.  All 44 Senators were Democrats. Supporters failed to obtain cloture by four votes, on a vote of 56 to 44.  Out of 40 Republicans casting a vote, three (3) supported cloture.   Out of 52 Democrats only one, Majority Leader Harry Reid, voted "nay," in his case so as not to foreclose the possibility of the bill being reintroduced.

Every Democrat supported cutting the rate on the affected student loans; 7.5% of Republicans did so.

Atkins is uncharacteristically wrong (though barely) when he describes the High Court as "stacked with 4 arch conservatives and one regular conservative against 4 left-of-centers." The Court is stacked with 5 arch conservatives, of whom one is speculated to be favorable to same-sex marriage. It suffers, Atkins observes, not from an "institutionalized" problem but "a right-wing ideological" bias.

The problem with the legislative process is not Congress, nor partisanship, nor the failure of voters to ensure their members of Congress are not the "idiots" Ritholtz labels them (graph below, from Brookings, of Democrats becoming slightly more liberal over time while Republicans have become dramatically more conservative).  It is Republicans. As Atkins concludes, "both sides aren't to blame. Just one side is."

                                                HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY

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