Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Bad Sign

Thirteen months ago, Business Insider's Josh Barro criticized liberals for defending former President Obama's decision to accept a $400,000 speaking fee from investment bank Cantor Fitzgerald. Evidently, it was even worse, given that we soon afterward learned that the 44th President had already been paid $800,000 for having delivered speeches to two other Wall Street firms. 

Still, Barack Obama is no longer in public office and since Hillary Clinton, running for a third Obama term, was defeated in a stunning upset, Democratic losses in backlash to his presidency are diminishing. Consequently, as Barro noted

The concern is not that Obama receiving such a fee will influence Obama's future policy decisions about Wall Street (he won't make any) but that if he goes around collecting such fees, he will make voters more wary of the intentions of future center-left politicians who run in his mold, as happened with Blair. Bernie Sanders' strong appeal in the 2016 primaries, which wasn't limited to far-left voters, shows that many voters are concerned about such matters.

Evidently not enough voters, or  at least not enough voters for Democratic members of Congress to stand firm against Wall Street donors.  Barro's employer reported Tuesday

The House finalized on Tuesday the largest package of Wall Street banking reforms since the financial crisis, rolling back regulations on financial firms, from community banks to credit-reporting agencies.

The legislation — most commonly referred to as the Crapo bill after its author, the Senate banking committee chair Mike Crapo — is the result of more than a year of negotiations among House Republicans, Senate Republicans, and a group of Senate Democrats that support the measure.
The bill passed by a vote of 258 to 159 and will head to President Donald Trump's desk for his signature. He is expected to sign the legislation.
Of course, the bill will be signed by The Great Populist as he continues to kick to the curb his working-class supporters- even if they're not black or Hispanic- in favor of corporate America. Charlie Pierce notes the measure is one
which very likely will neither grow the economy nor protect consumers, but which will offer most of America’s biggest financial institutions relief from the regulations put in place so that those institutions would have a harder time lighting the world on fire next time. This comes at a time when the banking industry is so terribly burdened by regulations that it’s making record profits—and that is small banks as well as the large ones.

The legislation not only passed the House with 33 Democrats in support but with the support of 17 Democrats in the US Senate, including seven from states won by Hillary Clinton. 
These included the two female Senators from New Hampshire,  Shaheen and Hassan. Three other Democratic women, Heitkamp of North Dakota, McCaskill of Missouri, and Stabenow of Michigan, voted aye. They are up for re-election in states won by Trump, as are Indiana's Donnelly, West Virginia's Manchin, Florida's Nelson, and Montana's  Tester, all men who voted in favor of the measure.
Three Democrats facing re-election,  Casey of Pennsylvania, Brown of Ohio, and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, voted against the bill. 
Seven to three.  Of ten Democrats in Trump states trying to win re-election to the Senate thisfall, seven voted in favor of loosening regulations on Wall Street, helping to (as Pierce puts it) "free up the Masters of the Universe to do some more damage, for which we once again will have the choice of bailing them out or buying cornflakes with beads and trinkets."
Josh Barro may have been right when he maintained in April 2016 that voters are "concerned about such matters" as the intentions of center-left politicians who "run in the mold" of Barack ObamaHowever, there clearly also are Democratic members of Congress in competitive states  (Florida, Michigan) and Republican states (North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia, Montana) who believe otherwise. And of course, Republicans  voted nearly in lockstep, with only one (Rep. Jones of North Carolina) voting against this thing.
Or maybe they're simply selling out for donations from Wall Street. In either case, it's telling, as it is that five female Democratic senators voted to please the financial services community. It's fewer than the number of Democratic women- twelve- who voted nay, but it does suggest that even with the growing number of women who will enter Congress next year, utopia is not upon us.

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