Who’s killing financial reform?

Call me old-fashioned, but I thought Congress was in charge of passing legislation, not Wall Street

Topics: Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., Bank Bailouts, Bank Reform

Senator Chris Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, scolded Wall Street representatives at a hearing Thursday for sending “an army of lobbyists whose only mission is to kill the common-sense financial reforms” needed by the public. “The fact is,” Dodd said, “I am frustrated, and so are the American people.” He charged that Wall Street’s intransigence was the reason for Congress’s failure to pass any bill to regulate the Street. “The refusal of large financial firms to work constructively with Congress on this effort borders on insulting to the American people who have lost so much in this crisis.”

In other words, it isn’t Congress’s fault. It isn’t the Senate Banking Committee’s fault. It certainly isn’t Dodd’s fault. The reason more than a year has passed since the biggest bailout in the history of the world and nothing has been done to prevent a repeat performance — even as the biggest banks are doling out more than $30 billion of bonuses, even as Goldman Sachs is awarding its big traders $16 billion in bonuses (more than the $13 billion Goldman collected from taxpayers via the bailout of AIG), even as AIG itself is handing out bonuses — the reason is … what, exactly, Senator? Because the Street has sent an army of lobbyists to Capitol Hill?

Call me old-fashioned, but I thought Congress was in charge of passing legislation, not Wall Street.

Dodd left out the most telling detail, of course. Wall Street is where the campaign money is. Dodd of all people knows that. He’s been on the receiving end of lots of it over the years.

Wall Street firms and their executives have been uniquely generous to both political parties, emerging recently as one of the largest benefactors of the Democratic Party. Between November 2008 and November 2009, Wall Street firms and executives handed out $42 million to lawmakers, mostly to members of the House and Senate banking committees and House and Senate leaders. During the 2008 elections, Wall Street showered Democratic candidates with well over $88 million and Republicans with over $67 million, putting the Street right up there with the insurance industry as among the nation’s largest equal-opportunity donors.



Some Democrats are quietly grumbling that all the tough talk emanating from the White House in recent weeks — the President calling the Street’s denizens “fat cats” and threatening them with limits on their size and the risks they can take, even waiving a watered-down version of Glass-Steagall in their faces — is making it harder to collect money from the Street this mid-term election year. And the Street is quietly threatening that it may well give Republicans more, if the saber-rattling doesn’t stop.

Congress isn’t doing a thing about Wall Street because it’s in the pocket of Wall Street. Dodd’s outburst at the Street is like the alcoholic who screams at a bartender “how dare you give me another drink when all I’ve done is pleaded with you for one!”

Dodd is right about one thing. The American people are frustrated, and the failure of Congress to pass real financial reform is insulting. But in trying to place responsibility for this appalling failure on Wall Street, Dodd insults us even more. 

Robert Reich, one of the nation’s leading experts on work and the economy, is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. Time Magazine has named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written 13 books, including his latest best-seller, “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future;” “The Work of Nations,” which has been translated into 22 languages; and his newest, an e-book, “Beyond Outrage.” His syndicated columns, television appearances, and public radio commentaries reach millions of people each week. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, and Chairman of the citizen’s group Common Cause. His new movie "Inequality for All" is in Theaters. His widely-read blog can be found at www.robertreich.org.

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    "Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>