Democrats Vote For Wall Street, Show True Colors

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Last night the Democrats voted down the Brown-Kaufman amendment to break up and cap the size of the TBTF banks. While Wall Street, their PR firms, and their economist allies have all cleverly thought of ways to get around the TBTF problem without having to do the unthinkable and break up the giant, behemoth banks (telling the public, for instance, that it’s not that they’re too big, it’s that they’re too interconnected) no one buys it. The reason we needed to bail out Wall Street is because they control 60 percent of our economy, and that if they went under, 60 percent of our economy would go under.

This is beyond a disgrace. It truly shows the extent to which the supposedly “progressive” party is beholden to corporate, autocratic interests over what is best for the people of this country. With every vote like this one, President Obama is sacrificing the ethos of his “change” candidacy right before our very eyes. He is sacrificing what could be a legacy of presidential greatness for that of a legacy of mere presidential above-averageness.

Let me anticipate an inevitable objection from some finance, Wall Street sycophant: “Mike, you don’t get it, it’s really not the size of the banks that matter; the financial crisis could have happened even if all the banks were smaller. The problem is the fact that like a web, all of the banks are interconnected, and that therefore if one domino falls, no matter how small, they all fall.”

While this may be a good argument for preventing another bailout (though I doubt it), the problem with TBTF banks was not only their leverage over our economy; it was also (and, I would argue, more importantly) their leverage over our democracy. A democracy cannot sustain itself or be true to its citizenry if it allows GIANT, private, for-profit institutions control the majority of its economy. As chronicled in my new favorite book, 13 Bankers, economic institutions like banks (or oil companies, weapons contractors, or even the railroad companies of the past that TR broke up) derive tremendous political power from their already tremendous economic power. The more their economic power grows, the more their political power grows. You can’t have a robust participatory democracy in a country where giant concentrated centers of autocratic power control massive slices of our economy. The two are inconsistent.

There must come a point when we draw a line between where the free market ends and our democracy begins. That line has been so blurred lately that it’s sometimes hard to even tell what real function our democracy plays in this country anymore, except maybe to lightly compliment the free market. Last night was a sad night.

List of Democrats who voted against the bill:

  • Akaka (D-HI)
  • Baucus (D-MT)
  • Bayh (D-IN)
  • Bennet (D-CO)
  • Carper (D-DE)
  • Conrad (D-ND)
  • Dodd (D-CT)
  • Feinstein (D-CA)
  • Gillibrand (D-NY)
  • Hagan (D-NC)
  • Inouye (D-HI)
  • Johnson (D-SD)
  • Kerry (D-MA)
  • Klobuchar (D-MN)
  • Kohl (D-WI)
  • Landrieu (D-LA)
  • Lautenberg (D-NJ)
  • McCaskill (D-MO)
  • Menendez (D-NJ)
  • Nelson (D-FL)
  • Nelson (D-NE)
  • Reed (D-RI)
  • Schumer (D-NY)
  • Shaheen (D-NH)
  • Tester (D-MT)
  • Udall (D-CO)
  • Warner (D-VA)