Friday, January 15, 2016

What Can We Expect From Tim Canova If He Beats Wasserman Schultz? Take The Issue Of Auditing The Fed


If someone asks what Debbie Wasserman Schultz is best known for, legislatively-- so not the political shenanigans that have brought her into such universal disrepute-- it would be hard to find a single issue she has worked on more assiduously-- and, alas, more successfully-- than protecting the monopolistic pricing structure of the sugar industry, largely run by her mega-financial supporters, the Fanjul brothers-- Florida Crystals Corp, Domino Sugar, C&H Sugar, American Sugar Refining, Redpath Sugar, etc. The Fanjuls' have financed the political rises of both Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Marco Rubio. It's not about ideology; it's about cash flow. Wassermann Schultz,more than anyone else in Congress, has been able to keep the price of sugar to consumers artificially high... and Fanjul money has bought her power and position inside the Democratic Party. Her right-wing GOP ally, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, termed her "a tiger" for the way she was able to defeat powerful Democrats like Charlie Rangel trying to lower the cost to consumers.

If Tim Canova beats her in the Democratic primary in August, he will be the new congressmember from the 23rd district, which stretches from Miami Beach up through southern Broward County to Hollywood and Dania Beach and west to Davie and Weston. Democrats enjoy a 22-point registration advantage and Obama beat McCain 61-39% in 2008 and then beat Romney 62-38% in 2012. Canova's presence in Congress would likely be very different than Wasserman Schultz's. As Canova said yesterday, he has a very different set of priorities.
"Debbie Wasserman Schultz has received huge amounts of corporate money-- from Wall Street, private prisons, big alcohol. Her corporate influence shines through in the policies she supports in Congress, like privatizing prisons, opposing medical marijuana, and voting to prevent Elizabeth Warren’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from writing rules that would stop racial discrimination in car loans. Those are not the policy priorities of someone who is focused on helping working families-- those are the policy priorities of someone who is more interested in helping their wealthy donors make more money. We can do better than that. Together, we can advance a progressive vision of this country that gives everyone a fair shot at the American Dream."
Tim is a progressive Democrat; he will fight for core Democratic values and principles, from women's choice, racial and gender equality, organized labor, reducing income inequality, working for a clean and sustainable environment, keeping corporate power in check... but the work he has done before-- with Senators Paul Tsongas and Bernie Sanders point in the direction of an expertise in something which is more arcane and incomprehensible for most voters: Fed policy. David Dayen took a good look at that aspect of Tim's campaign in his New Republic piece this week.

The bipartisan effort to hold the Fed more accountable is an on-going effort. The oligarchy is determined to never allow an audit. And Wall Street has enough paid off shills in high places to make it next to impossible. Yesterday Wall Street's top Capitol Hill whore, Chuck Schumer (who has taken $23,538,638 in legalistic bribes from the Finance Sector), engineered the defeat of Ron Paul's S. 2232, a bill to require a full audit of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the Federal reserve banks by the Comptroller General. It only got 53 of the 60 votes required and the only Democrats who bucked Schumer and voted for the audit were Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT). We usually expect better from Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, and Jeff Merkley. And, oddly enough, before Schumer threatened everyone, some of the same senators were in the House in 2009 when Ron Paul and Alan Grayson did pass an Audit the Fed bill were co-sponsors of that bill. They voted against the exact same bill this week-- including Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI). And when the Audit the Fed bill passed in 2012 among those voting yes-- but who were apparently cowed by Schumer this week-- were Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Chris Murphy (D-CT). I wonder what Schumer said to change their minds on something so fundamentally crucial.

Marketwatch reported that on the Senate floor Paul said the bill was designed to "pull back the curtain and uncover the cloak of secrecy” at the Fed. Wall Street wants that cloak of secrecy intact and Schumer delivered for them big time. I guess all that Wall Street worry about Sherrod Brown wasn't necessary after all.

Now let's circle back to what we can expect from Canova in Congress if he replaces Wasserman Schultz-- a proposition Florida observers are split on, idealists and activists sure it can be done, establisment types claiming it's impossible. Yesterday I got to ask Tim about the Fed, in the light of so many Democrats in the Senate voting against it despite having once supported it. "Regular independent audits of the Federal Reserve," he told me, "are a good idea. They would help Congress, the public, and the markets to better understand the conduct and course of monetary policy. Unfortunately, the Fed has always resisted more transparency." He continued:
In the early 1990s, the Fed bitterly fought releasing transcripts of its Federal Open Market Committee meetings. The Fed lost, and the sky did not fall. In 2009-2010, the Fed strongly opposed audits of its emergency lending authority facilities. Those emergency facilities were audited, and again, the sky did not fall. Instead, these audits helped us see how the Fed was using its facilities to prop up elite financial interests while ignoring the interests of Main Street.

There is nothing that justifies special treatment for the Fed and monetary policy versus other government agencies and their functions. The central bank should be accountable to Congress rather than Wall Street. As the Washington Post recently detailed, this is what Democrats used to believe for many years. An audit of the Federal Reserve and a more democratic and accountable central bank is a traditional Democratic policy agenda item, first proposed by a former sharecropper from Texas, Wright Patman. By contrast, an 'independent' Fed, unaccountable to Congress and the public, is a traditional posture of Wall Street. During the Great Depression, Roosevelt's Federal Reserve engaged in direct lending to spur recovery. That's the kind of Fed we need, as I noted in the American Prospect in 2010.

Today, even after seven years of economic recovery, depressionary conditions persist for millions of Americans in countless neighborhoods. The Fed should be doing more to promote economic recovery from those left behind. It is time for Democrats to return to the principles and policies of accountability and transparency in our financial markets and central bank. Auditing the Fed is a first step to better understand the nature and scope of existing Fed operations and where Fed policy should go from here.

With Grayson gone from the House-- hopefully battling with Wall Street (i.e., Schumer and McConnell) in the Senate starting in 2017-- House Democrats will need someone to work effectively across the aisle with the serious anti-Establishment Republicans like Justin Amash, Walter Jones and Thomas Massie who want to audit the Fed and hold the Wall Street titans accountable. That's not going to be Debbie Wasserman Schultz or any other Wall Street puppet inside the House Democratic caucus. Please consider contributing what you can spare to Tim Canova's campaign.

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