Washington Exists To Serve The Banks Says GOPs Next Banking Chairman

Isaiah J. Poole

The new Republican chairman of the House Financial Services Committee is proving that the financial services industry invested well when it spent more than $200 million on the 2010 elections, including more than $106 million on Republican candidates.

Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., made plain what the financial sector will get for its money in an interview last week with The Birmingham News (via Think Progress). From his “Main Street” perspective, “In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated, and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks.”

The story goes on to say that Bachus “clarified” his comment, but the clarification does more to obfuscate the truth than to illuminate it. To understand that, you only have to look at Baucus’ track record on the financial services committee and what he has said he intends to do as chairman.

As Bloomberg News reported last week when Bachus was named as the person who will replace Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., as committee chairman:

Bachus, 62, is aligned with Republicans pushing for free markets and less-intrusive regulation. From the beginning of debate over what became the Dodd-Frank law, he led opposition to measures such as resolution authority to wind-down failing firms, calling them “back-door bailouts.” He also fought against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and questioned the legality of President Barack Obama’s appointment of Harvard Law School Professor Elizabeth Warren to an advisory position.

Bachus issued a statement when he was named the next chairman that proclaimed “now is the time to get government out of the way so businesses can create jobs and grow the economy.” And to clear up any ambiguity about what he meant by that, his statement also said: “We are committed to going title by title through the 2,300-page Dodd-Frank Act to correct, replace, or repeal the job-killing provisions that unnecessarily punish small businesses and community banks that did nothing to cause the financial crisis.”

It’s important to remember that this is not what a majority of Americans were voting for. As disappointed or even disgusted many prospective voters were at the Democrats this fall, they were even more enraged at Wall Street institutions and their attempts to get Washington to “serve” its interests. An August USA Today/Gallup poll found that61 percent of respondents supported “increased government regulation of banks and major financial institutions.” In a Campaign for America’s Future/Democracy Corps poll 58 percent of respondents said they were more likely to support a candidate committed to “eliminating the special deals and tax breaks won by corporate lobbyists for Wall Street.”

But the $752,000 that Bachus’ 2010 campaign received from the financial services and real estate sector speaks louder than the will of the voters conservative lawmakers invoke to justify their drown-the-government, soak-the-middle-class policies.

At least Bachus is transparent, even if inadvertently so, about what the battle lines are and what side he’s on. On one side is the progressive financial reform effort, which produced a law that, even in its ultimately weakened state after being battered by a multimillion-dollar lobbying onslaught, took historic steps toward protecting ordinary consumers against the predatory behavior of Wall Street behemoths. On the other side is Rep. Spencer Bachus and his Republican colleagues, whose agenda is to make Washington Wall Street’s submissive mistress. As Bachus works as banking committee chairman to put his words into action, let’s make sure his words and the distinction they draw are not forgotten.

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