by Robert Scheer
from HUSTLER Magazine December 2010
ON ELECTION DAY REMEMBER THAT THE GOP MAJORITY REJECTED EXTENDING UNEMPLOYMENT
CHECKS TO MILLIONS OF CITIZENS THROWN OUT OF WORK BY THE WALL STREET DEBACLE.
The garbage charge of this year’s midterm elections is that Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress are anti-business or, even worse, some kind of socialists. Just the opposite is the case with this President, who—like Bill Clinton before him—has given the Wall Street lobbyists just about everything they had paid for. Those same lobbyists, ingrates that they are, now are pushing for Republican control of Congress because they want to pressure our Democratic President for even greater concessions in the remainder of his term.
That’s what they did to Clinton after his first two years in office, and the tactic worked brilliantly, turning the Arkansas poor boy populist into a submissive water carrier for Wall Street for his next six years in office. It was Clinton who reversed the Depressionera Glass-Steagall Act that prevented highflying investment banks from playing with the federally insured banking deposits of ordinary folk. And when those bankers all too predictably abused their newfound freedom from sensible regulation by designing and marketing the Ponzi scheme of toxic derivatives and credit default swaps, it was Obama who went even further than George W. Bush in bailing them out.
This is a far cry from your grandfather’s Democratic Party, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt responded to the lessons of the Great Depression by corralling Wall Street greed with legislation designed to prevent the big banks from being too big to fail. Ever since Ronald Reagan, the Republicans have talked a good game of ending those New Deal restraints on big finance, but it was Clinton who got it done. That’s what freed Wall Street to run amok, almost sending the entire economic system off the cliff. And it was Obama who kept open the spigot for a federal bailout following George W.’s welfare program to save the bankers from the consequence of their uncontrolled greed.
Faced with that disaster, Bush just threw taxpayer money at Wall Street while asking absolutely nothing in return to help those same taxpayers who were hurting so thanks to Wall Street excess. Obama is now attacked because he got back a few very modest new regulations to prevent a future financial meltdown, and for that sensible protection of the public interest he is being damned.
The Democrats, whose voting base is centered more on those who still have to work for a living than on the country-club set at the heart of Republican power, do have to spread the wealth just a bit. That’s why the Democrats favor healthcare reform and job-stimulus programs, while the Republicans are all heart for rich retired golfers. But the irony is that, in the crunch, the Democrats, despite offering a few morsels for the rest of us, have been better for Big Business than their Republican opponents.
Both major parties are under the control of Wall Street, but the Democrats are the lesser evil because they have to deliver some crumbs to ordinary folks. All you should require as a reason for not voting for a Republican is that the GOP led a filibuster against legislation that would extend unemployment benefits for some of the 8 million people thrown out of work by the Wall Street debacle. Only two Republicans—Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins—voted to support the extension. It seems Republicans—who, under George W. Bush, threw trillions at Wall Street—are suddenly worried about the national debt when it comes to putting food on the table of unemployed workers. The Republicans in Congress voted against every effort to force the banks to help people stay in their homes; at least the Democrats made some effort to put people first.
That was too much for the bankers who want it all. Their attacks on Obama as antibusiness are nothing more than shameful hypocrisy on the part of the corporate lobbyists who know that the Democrats deliver for them even if the right-wing nutjobs on talk radio and television don’t. When the Big Business hotshots complain about Obama, it’s nothing more than their way of upping the ante. The best defense is a good offense, so why not cry foul about a rising national debt whenever the government spends money on anyone but the undeserving rich?
“Play the victim, woe is me” is the cry of such ripoff artists as Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, so maybe no one will notice that your financial banditry turned millions of foreclosed homeowners and unemployed workers into virtual paupers. That’s what’s up with this election: It’s a naked power grab to weaken the Democratic hold over Congress in order to push Obama further into the ungrateful arms of the Wall Street fat cats who want even more.
Before serving 30 years as a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, Robert Scheer spent the late 1960s as Vietnam correspondent, managing editor and editor in chief of Ramparts magazine. Now editor of TruthDig.com, Scheer has written such hard-hitting books as The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America and his latest, The Great American Stick-Up: Greedy Bankers and the Politicians Who Love Them.