Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Still beneath contempt

We were all watching the special election in New York's 26th congressional district yesterday. There is a limit to how much you can abuse people's self-interest, and the Republicans have reached that limit. Democrat Kathy Hochul defeated Republican Jane Corwin for a seat once held by conservative Jack Kemp.

Republican leaders have hinted that the Party for The Rich may have somewhat (just a tiny little bit) misinterpreted or exaggerated the support for Paul Ryan's budget, with its destruction of Medicare (one of Americans' favorite programs); they may even have misinterpreted the results of the 2010 off-year elections. Just a little bit.

It is really beneath contempt -- as usual -- how the Republicans have misunderstood so much. Every poll on taxes, deficits and health care reform have shown that people are uneasy because they fear the effects of these issues on them; however, when asked about specific provisions of the tax code or of the healthcare reform bill, they support nearly all of the progressive parts -- taxing the wealthy, and universal health care. They don't like the "individual mandate" because they don't want to be forced to do anything -- a longstanding and traditional American position. Of course, there is no hope of universal health care if people are allowed to wait until they get sick to take out insurance, or if the uninsured can get cheap care at an emergency room at the expense of everyone else. Americans, while tending to believe the lies about "death panels" (they only have them in Arizona I think), also have very mixed feelings about extending life too far.

In other words, after spending many millions of dollars in opposing everything that Obama and the Democrats have proposed, the PTR has not obtained anything like a clear mandate from the people for this obstructionist policy. The same is true for the anti-union moves typified by what went on in Wisconsin.

When the Republicans, with not just a little help from many Democrats, pushed deregulation of the banking industry, and when this deregulation led to the disastrous Great Recession of 2008, people responded by giving Democrats control of the presidency and both houses of Congress. The Republicans never acknowledged this a Democratic mandate. When, as a result of high unemployment (hardly caused by the Democrats, whose policies were just beginning to take effect) and disgust with the toothless bailout of too-big-to-fail banks, the Democrats lost the House in 2010, the PTR convinced itself it had a mandate to achieve its goal of dismantling many parts of the very popular programs instituted by the New Deal and the Great Society. In doing this, their overstepping has become clearer and clearer.

Yes, it's true that people don't want to be pushed around; that they think (and hope) that they may be rich some day; that they have succumbed to the myth that government is the problem (though that belief is, curiously, held mostly in states that are willing to accept Federal funds in excess of the taxes that they pay in); that they can be persuaded temporarily to buy into new wars and other military fund raisers. Nevertheless, they eventually see through a lot of the nonsense that the advocates for the wealthy and privileged spew out. When they are warred on enough times by the upper class, they will begin to fight back and -- gasp -- engage in a little class warfare of their own. I think we are beginning to see that.

One other thing: the Republicans are really bent out of shape that there is finally a modest law that protects people from the predatory financial policies of banks and investment houses. They don't want explanations of the fine print, restrictions on what credit card issuers can do, and regulation of super-risky speculation in mortgage-backed securities and derivatives. If, as they claim, they have the interests of ordinary Americans at heart, how can they explain their boot-licking advocacy for the small percentage of people who control and profit from ownership of a vast plurality of American wealth? They really hate Elizabeth Warren and the financial protection and reform that she represents. About what you'd expect from the Party for The Rich.

After all these years, still beneath contempt.


  1. The new CFPB has a single director who's accountable only to the President. Its regulations may be overturned by the new Financial Stability Oversight Council but only by a two thirds vote. So a single person who's very hard to fire would have regulatory authority over products ranging from mortgages to credit cards. The director also sets the budget by themselves with no mechanism to ensure taxpayer money is being spent wisely. Other agencies' bugets face Congressional scrutiny and so should this one. Other agencies are governed by a board. That's why Congress was meeting yesterday. Did it get heated? Sure. But so did the baseball steriod hearings. What's more important is getting the structure correct.

  2. "Correct" for the Republicans means powerless.

    If the Council's budget faces Congressional scrutiny, the PTR will cut its funding to 0; they pretty much have said so. The Party for The Rich fought the law creating financial regulation tooth and nail, as they have fought regulation of the financial industry before, during, and after the disaster the industry caused.

    If you seriously think that the hearings involve "getting the structure correct" in order to protect people from the rapacious banks and mortgage institutions, then you haven't been paying attention to what's been happening during the past decade.

    Who, exactly, is worried that this Council might be have too much power or be too hard on the banks? I suspect only the banks and the Republicans and some Democrats who are owned by the banks or otherwise depend on their lobbyists.