Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Roll Over And Beg Award: Banking Edition

Last week on Bill Moyers' Journal, Moyers quoted Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) as saying this:

In fact, other Wall Street insiders – many of them big contributors to the Obama presidential campaign, and progressive in their concern for the public interest – privately are expressing serious concerns that Geithner, Summers and their associates are leading the President and America’s taxpayers down a path toward further economic disaster.

This week, as Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois unsuccessfully fought for a congressional amendment he said would have helped 1.7 million Americans save their homes from foreclosure, the senator told a radio station back home that, “The banks – hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created – are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place."

He could say the same of the White House.

Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: Mortgaging the White House

[emphasis added]

As have I. What Sen. Durbin was referring to was the rejection of his amendment to require that banks, instead of evicting people who can't afford to pay inflated mortgages they accepted during the real estate boom, instead refinance the homes at a price that reflects today's market. It was rejected by every Republican in the Senate except Jeff Sessions, who didn't vote, and twelve Democrats.

Over at FireDogLake, Jane Hamsher is doing a post-mortem on why we citizens once again lost out to the banks in Congress. She goes into detail about how they bought Congress this time:

A review of lobbying reports filed indicates that finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) interests paid over $42 million to lobbyists who worked to defeat mortgage write-down in bankruptcy (cramdown) in the first quarter of 2009, as well as other anti-consumer legislation such as capping credit card interest rates.

Over $42 Million Paid to Lobbyists Working to Defeat “Cramdown” in 1Q 2009

In short, the banks took our own money, and then used it to buy lobbyists who persuaded Congress to bone us.

In an article he wrote early last year, Ian Welsh has summarized why this keeps happening:

[F]or the people in charge the last thirty years have been absolutely wonderful. Seriously, things haven’t been this good since the 1890’s and the 1920’s. Everyone they know–their families, their mistresses and toyboys, their friends–is doing well. Wall Street paid even larger bonuses for 2007, the year they ran the ship into the shore, than they did in 2006 when their bonuses equalled the raises of 80 million Americans. Multiple CEOs walked away from companies they had bankrupted with golden parachutes in excess of 50 million. And if you can find a Senator who isn’t a millionaire (except maybe Bernie Sanders) you let me know.

Essential Insanity

As I've observed before, most members of Congress are doing just fine economically. Those few who aren't almost certainly will be, thanks to their positions. The corruption and foolishness of Congress is distressing partly because it's so obvious to everyone except Congress and the people who cover it for the press.

So, for rolling over for a belly rub from the banks, these Democratic Senators, and all the Republicans save Sessions, are winners of 2009's first Roll Over And Beg Award:

Max Baucus (D-MT)
Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Robert Byrd (D-WV)
Thomas Carper (D-DE)
Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
Tim Johnson (D-SD)
Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
Ben Nelson (D-NE)
Mark Pryor (D-AR)
Arlen Specter (D-PA)
Jon Tester (D-MT)

Arlen Specter, in particular, should be happy for the increased notoriety of being a Democrat who votes to screw the middle class and poor on behalf of the rich. As part of the Republican Congress, doing such things made him just another face in the crowd. Now, instead, he stands out as a shining example of independent-minded corruption.

As always, there is no monetary value to this prize, save for the value of the biscuits, procurement of which and payment for which is the responsibility of the winners.

UPDATE: Speaking of corruption, in a more recent article Jane writes:

One of the key votes against "cramdown" in the Senate came, surprisingly, from Byron Dorgan of North Dakota. According to an FEC lobbying report filed by the American Council of Life Insurers, Dorgan's wife Kimberly worked for them as a lobbyist to defeat the measure during the first quarter of 2009 (PDF).

The Amercan Council of Life Insurers (ACLI) represents 373 insurance companies. Headed by former Oklahoma governor Frank Keating, they account for 93 percent of the U.S. life insurance industry's total assets.

Byron Dorgan’s Wife Lobbied Against Cramdown

[links from original]

I can't wait for the rationalizations for this one, can you?

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