As Republicans and Democrats play lap dog to America’s corporate oligarchy, a new progressive hope has emerged
There are two fundamental problems with American politics today. Those who follow the goings on in Washington know exactly what I’m talking about. Corporate influence and campaign financing have been getting increasingly worse over the years and they naturally go hand in hand.
Those of us who rightfully identify this problem know that in order to give Washington back to the people, money and corporate power must be taken out of the equation.
The House and Senate recently passed CRomnibus, a continuing resolution omnibus bill that, among other things, would fund the government through till next September. As with any omnibus bill, it was filled with riders or provisions both good and bad, but the two that stood out the most, effectively shits all over the American people.
The first terrible provision of the spending bill weakens the Dodd-Frank Act’s restrictions on banks that want to trade certain derivatives. The same kind of risky derivatives that sparked the financial meltdown of 2008. It effectively allows the banks to back their bets with taxpayer-backed insurance. It is, to be blunt, a massive Wall Street give away.
The provision was written almost entirety by Citigroup Bank. The New York Times reported that Citigroup’s proposed language was reflected in more than 70 lines of the House financial services committee’s 85-line bill.
It is important to note that the financial sector is by far and away the largest source of campaign contributions to federal candidates and parties. $435.9 million in the 2014 cycle alone. No surprise then that politicians allow them to write their own laws.
The second terrible provision goes to the heart of the problem in American politics. If your solution to America’s growing corporate oligarchy is to remove money from politics, it may vex you to hear that the voices of the wealthy just got even louder.
Inserted on page 1,599 of the 1,603-page bill, wealthy donors are now able to donate a total of $324,000 to the Democratic National Committee or Republican National Committee.
The maximum under the McCain-Feingold Act used to be $32,400. I guess congress felt it wasn’t enough and needed to multiply it by a factor of ten. In a two-year election cycle, a couple can now give $1,296,000 to a party’s various accounts.
For any progressive, hell for any “don’t tread on me” Tea Partier, these are two giant stabs in the chest. But all hope is not lost. I saw something happen this past week that I haven’t seen in a long time. What I saw was nothing short of a progressive rebellion.
While establishment Democrats and Republicans have once again taken the country back a step or two, there are finally some loud voices coming from people in Washington who wish it to go forward. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, widely considered the leader of this progressive rebellion, not only went after fellow lawmakers for shoving in Citigroup’s provision, she went after Citigroup itself.
“Democrats don’t like Wall Street bailouts. Republicans don’t like Wall Street bailouts. The American people are disgusted by Wall Street bailouts. And yet here we are, five years after Dodd-Frank with Congress on the verge of ramming through a provision that would do nothing for the middle class, do nothing for community banks, do nothing but raise the risk that taxpayers will have to bail out the biggest banks once again… So let me say this to anyone who is listening at Citigroup. I agree with you Dodd-Frank isn’t perfect. It should have broken you into pieces!”
Elizabeth Warren, for once, didn’t stand alone. Rep. Maxine Waters said “We don’t like lobbying that is being done by the president or anybody else that would allow us to support a bill that … would give a big gift to Wall Street and the bankers who caused this country to almost go into a depression.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also expressed her strong opposition to the bill, as did Rep. Keith Ellison and Sen. Bernie Sanders who said he was concerned about the precedent being set by giving in.
This small progressive rebellion should be seen as a warning to Barack Obama who has promised to sign the bill. When Democrats lose control of the Senate next month, Obama will try and work closer with Republicans, but it won’t be Republicans that keep him in line, it will be the true progressives within the Democratic Party.
With the Congressional Wars set to continue in January, I have a feeling the rebellion is just getting started…