#occupywallstreet #occupyboston Part 6: Who Has Our Backs?

If you’re interested, parts one through five of my #occupywallstreet #occupyboston series:

 

“President Obama is the only candidate for president who shares our vision of America as a land of opportunity for everyone. We need a leader willing to fight for the needs of the 99 percent, and stand with hard working families to say that the world’s wealthiest corporations must pay their fair share”

      —SEIU President Mary Kay Henry’s endorsement release


Speaking For Myself . . .

My heart sank as I read this, because there’s ample evidence that the Obama administration, rather than push the political envelope in Washington, which this administration has never done, has abandoned working Americans to the tender mercies of Wall Street. As we have seen so far, the Washington machine has busily at work drilling holes in Dodd-Frank’s regulatory provisions:

  • Volcker: Obama Plans Maintain ‘Too Big To Fail’ in which the obvious point that large, private financial institutions in the US will continue to enjoy the implicit support of Washington, and through Washington, of taxpayers. While I understand the decisions of 2008, in which Hank Paulson, the Bush administration and Congress felt a total meltdown was imminent and could be avoided, we really need to ask ourselves at what price, and has it really gotten our of hand?
  • Meanwhile, As Zuccotti Park is Cleared, Congress Moves to Gut Financial Reform. Four new bills are introduced which effectively gut important parts of Dodd-Frank:
    • HR 1838 which

      Amends the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to repeal the prohibition against federal government assistance to (bailouts of) registered swap dealers, security-based swap dealers, major swap participants, or major security-based swap participants with respect to any swap, security-based swap, or other activity.

      Let’s just call this the “Taxpayers are still on the hook for Wall Street Speculators Bill”

    •  

    • HR 2586, which restricts what the CFTC can regulate so severely the Dodd-Frank provision on derivatives trading is effectively useless:

      Swap Execution Facility Clarification Act – Amends the Commodity Exchange Act and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to prohibit both the Commodity Futures Exchange Commission (CFTC) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), in interpreting or defining a “security-based swap execution facility,” from requiring one to: (1) have a minimum number of participants receive a bid or offer or respond to any trading system or platform functionality, (2) display or delay bids or offers for any period of time, (3) limit the means of interstate commerce used by market participants to enter into and execute swap transactions on the trading system or platform; or (4) require bids or offers on one trading system or platform operated by the swap execution facility to interact with bids or offers on another trading system or platform operated by the swap execution facility.

      We’ve already seen what restrictions on regulators can accomplish: a U3 unemployment rate stuck at over 9%, and a U6 unemployment rate approaching 30%. So what’s the thinking here?

    •  

    • Do pensions enjoy any protection from Wall Street predators? Not so much. The Retirement Income Protection Act of 2011 (please note the unmitigated gall to call this proposal pension “protection”) exposes pension plans to wider risk. It forces pension funds to engage in swaps which may, or may notbenefit the fund. Clearly, there are ways to hedge your investments, most notably through wide diversification—which works almost all the time. What this bill proposes results in pension plan costs going up (swaps don’t come for free) and Wall Street gets increased revenues through the fees associated with processing these swaps.This bill is a form of congressional pork favoring Wall Street, and nothing else.
    •  

    • HR 2308, the SEC Regulatory Accountability Act, places significant new hurdles to SEC regulators:

      SEC Regulatory Accountability Act – Amends the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to require the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), before promulgating a regulation or issuing any order, to: (1) identify the nature and significance of the problem that the proposed regulation is designed to address in order to assess whether any new regulation is warranted; (2) use the Office of the Chief Economist to assess the costs and benefits of the intended regulation and and adopt it only on a determination that its benefits justify the costs; and (3) ensure that any regulation is accessible, consistent, written in plain language, and easy to understand. Directs the SEC to review its regulations and orders periodically to determine their efficacy and whether to modify or repeal them.

      Already there are significant procedures in place before any regulatory body can implement new regulatory rules, as specified by the Administrative Procedure Act. Part of the process is spelled out in §553. Rule making, which, among other things, specifies that interested people can provide their input. The Dodd-Frank proposal prohibiting certain financial institutions from playing the market on their own behalf, the proposed Volker Rule implementation is now under public review for instance.

So, who shows up at these meetings? Meetings which will significantly affect what possibilities and choices every member of the 99% can avail themselves of in the future? Well, Courtesy of the Sunlight Foundation, we can take a peek. Just recently, we see:

  • BlackRock, Fidelity Investments, Goldman Sachs Asset Management meeting with the CFTC
  • Mortgage Bankers Association
  • Federal Reserve Board, Wells Fargo
  • Barclays Capital, FRBNY (Federal Reserve Bank of New York)
  • FRBNY, JP Morgan
  • Verizon, Covington & Burling, Equinix, others
  • Etc., etc,. etc. . . .

There is the oddball advocacy group showing up to offer testimony, but these I list here are by far the typical examples of whom the people drawing up the regulatory provisions of Dodd-Frank are. I included the fifth one for a reason. As it happens, Covington & Burling is the bank lobbyist law firm where none other than Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, enjoyed a partnership for eight years. Not to put too great a spin on this, but ask yourself how Holder’s performance has been, and then ask yourself just what kind thinking makes such a person as he a suitable choice to be America’s top law enforcement official?

Someone who has the interests of the 99% foremost? You think?


For me, Congress’ defining moment came and went as the Senate killed the Brown-Kaufman Amendment, which would have imposed a hard limit on TBTF banks as a percentage of GDP. The blame for its failure can be laid at both parties, as more than two dozen democrats voted to kill what MIT economist and ex-director of the IMF Simon Johnson characterized as “our best near-term chance to reduce the size of Wall Street megabanks that are too big to fail and that threaten our economy” by a vote of 61-33.

So who gets the blame? Well here you go (Democrats in boldface):

Akaka (D-HI) Gillibrand (D-NY) McCaskill (D-MO)
Alexander (R-TN) Graham (R-SC) McConnell (R-KY)
Barrasso (R-WY) Grassley (R-IA) Menendez (D-NJ)
Baucus (D-MT) Gregg (R-NH) Murkowski (R-AK)
Bayh (D-IN) Hagan (D-NC) Nelson (D-FL)
Bennet (D-CO) Hatch (R-UT) Nelson (D-NE)
Bond (R-MO) Hutchison (R-TX) Reed (D-RI)
Brown (R-MA) Inhofe (R-OK) Risch (R-ID)
Brownback (R-KS) Inouye (D-HI) Roberts (R-KS)
Burr (R-NC) Isakson (R-GA) Schumer (D-NY)
Carper (D-DE) Johanns (R-NE) Sessions (R-AL)
Chambliss (R-GA) Johnson (D-SD) Shaheen (D-NH)
Cochran (R-MS) Kerry (D-MA) Snowe (R-ME)
Collins (R-ME) Klobuchar (D-MN) Tester (D-MT)
Conrad (D-ND) Kohl (D-WI) Thune (R-SD)
Corker (R-TN) Kyl (R-AZ) Udall (D-CO)
Cornyn (R-TX) Landrieu (D-LA) Voinovich (R-OH)
Crapo (R-ID) Lautenberg (D-NJ) Warner (D-VA)
Dodd (D-CT) LeMieux (R-FL) Wicker (R-MS)
Enzi (R-WY) Lieberman (ID-CT)  
Feinstein (D-CA) McCain (R-AZ)  

As for other public officials, it seems that even liberal mayors can’t be counted on. Of course, most urban areas in the US have Democratic mayors, the GOP’s appeal is significantly rural, but as we see, few mayors of major cities are more prepared to work with protesters than with those who have a visceral hatred of protesters on the left and are perfectly happy with the abuse of power pepper-spraying an 84 year-old woman represents.

So when I read Mary Kay Henry’s statement of endorsement of Obama in 2012, my stomach churned. Had she said that Obama was working people’s best hope vis-a-vis the alternative, that would’ve been one thing. However, trying to sell the idea that he shares working Americans’ aspirations and concerns is more than history bears out. While the Examiner story allegedly coming out of the Justice Department (anonymously, mind you) that the raids on #Occupy sites are facilitated with help from DHS is being disputed, it has legs because at some levels, it’s probably closer to the truth than the fantasy that our federal security apparat is totally without a hand in all this, and I think ordinary people know this and accept it as the truth. The simple fact that the President happens to be in China and Australia when all this goes down in itself speaks volumes. So I think we can count on there being coordination, if not direction. We just don’t know the details yet. We do know some details about which wealthy and Wall Street special interest groups are writing the laws Congress should have written, and as time passes, we will witness just how badly the 99% are being sold out by both Wall Street and Washington acting in concert.

In short, almost nobody has our backs. Not more than a bare handful of officials in Washington like Bernie Sanders, not the White House, certainly not Congress nor our local officials.

We have nobody but each other.


Peace, Strength and Honor.


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