Wall Street Whores

Isaiah J. Poole

I don’t like to use the term “whore” lightly. But what else, in our current economic environment, would you call this?

Republicans are rushing to capitalize on what they call Wall Street’s “buyer’s remorse” with the Democrats. And industry executives and lobbyists are warning Democrats that if Mr. Obama keeps attacking Wall Street “fat cats,” they may fight back by withholding their cash.

… Senator John Cornyn of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said he visited New York about twice a month to try to tap into Wall Street’s “buyers’ remorse.”

“I just don’t know how long you can expect people to contribute money to a political party whose main plank of their platform is to punish you,” Mr. Cornyn said.

Or this?

In discussions with Wall Street executives, Republicans are striving to make the case that they are banks’ best hope of preventing President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats from cracking down on Wall Street.

… Last week, House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio made a pitch to Democratic contributor James Dimon, the chairman and chief executive of J.P. Morgan, over drinks at a Capitol Hill restaurant, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Boehner told Mr. Dimon congressional Republicans had stood up to Mr. Obama’s efforts to curb pay and impose new regulations. The Republican leader also said he was disappointed many on Wall Street continue to donate their money to Democrats, according to the people familiar with the matter.

The bipartisan courtship rituals between big politics and big money in Washington are bad enough, but Republican leaders in Congress are in the process of taking the process to a new low by openly declaring, “Give us your money and we will do your bidding.”

They do so in spite of the grassroots anger against the banking industry and polls that indicate majority support for the financial reforms that the banking industry vigorously opposes.

Just in the last few days, Think Progress and TPM have reported that Wall Street and Republican Party leaders are collaborating on a new organization, the American Action Network, that seeks to spend millions spreading the view that letting Wall Street run amok again is somehow good for working people.

Meanwhile, we’re already seeing the effects of Republicans choosing to continue to be the political arm of Wall Street rather than an honest broker in working on ways to rebuild our financial system in a way that protects the economy from future Wall Street recklessness. Sen. Christopher Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, gave up trying to forge a bipartisan financial reform plan with his Republican counterpart, Sen. Richard Shelby, last week when it became clear that the price would be too high. Apparently, even surrendering on the creation of a consumer financial protection agency—something that should be considered inviolate in financial reform discussions but which big Wall Street financial institutions are nearly united in opposing—was not enough for Shelby.

This could be good news if Dodd turns this into an opportunity to put on the Senate floor the kind of bold proposal that gives consumers more transparency, enshrines into law the principle that the largest Wall Street institutions are no longer “too big to fail,” and signals to investors that when they play in the Wall Street casino, they only get to play with their money—and no one is going to cover their losses when their bets go bad.

But the natural impulse for the Democrats will be to compete for Wall Street campaign cash by watering down financial reform. That is why progressives have to move now on two fronts. Longer term, we need to counter the impact of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which threatens to turn the flood of campaign cash in our political system into a tsunami, with strong legislation and, perhaps, a constitutional amendment.

But in the immediate term, voters on the left and the right who are angry with the way Washington works can start making Wall Street money politically toxic, and calling out those who offer themselves up for Wall Street cash as the political whores that they are. It’s a good chance that there are still enough politicians who will think twice if their courtship of Wall Street means that Main Street voters—and their millions of dollars in small donations—will turn their backs in disgust, while those of principle who side for reform are rewarded.

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