Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Why Hillary's Wall Street Speeches Are Important


Short version: if there was nothing significant in the paid speeches she would have published the transcripts when she first said several months ago that she would think about it. The chances she made a Romney-like remark indicating the disdain and contempt her class feels towards working people is virtually certain. Yesterday the twitter Hill-bots were mindlessly regurgitating the ugly, anti-working class rhetoric of far right commentator Katie Pavich. Does anyone think the Republicans don't have tapes of those Wall Street speeches and are just waiting for her to win the nomination before releasing them... with much fanfare?

Yesterday, on his blog, Robert Reich posed the simple question, Why is there so little discussion about one of Bernie Sanders’s most important proposals-- to tax financial speculation? "Americans are fed up with Wall Street’s financial games," he wrote. "Excessive speculation contributed to the near meltdown of 2008-- which cost millions of people their jobs, savings, and homes. So why is it only Bernie Sanders who’s calling for a financial transactions tax? Why aren’t politicians of all stripes supporting it? And why isn’t it a major issue in the 2016 election? Because a financial transactions tax directly threatens a major source of Wall Street’s revenue. And, if you hadn’t noticed, the Street uses a portion of its vast revenues to gain political clout. So even though it’s an excellent idea championed by a major candidate, a financial transactions tax isn’t being discussed this election year because Wall Street won’t abide it. Which maybe one of the best reasons for enacting it."

Except Hillary. The Finance Sector has pumped far, far more money into her campaign ($42,160,423) than they've given to their most craven errand boys, from Chuck Schumer ($24,578,358), John McCain ($38,306,487) and John Boehner ($12,233,548) to Mitch McConnell ($11,496,601), Marco Rubio ($8,698,799), Kirsten Gillibrand ($7,598,433), Paul Ryan ($6,008,853) and Steny Hoyer ($5,506,748). And that doesn't even count the millions of dollars in direct personal bribery they've given her and her husband in the form of fees for speeches. David Dayen was busy yesterday too. His piece for the New Republic made that point that even without release of her bankster transcripts, everyone already knows-- who is willing to open their eyes and ears-- that Hillary gives, as he puts it, priority of place to Wall Street.

Bernie's 3 strongest counties were Clinton (73.5%), Essex (73.2%) and Franklin (69.5%), all up near Vermont. NY has 62 counties and Hillary won the 13 where party machine bosses report any vote totals they're paid to report. Bernie won all the rest.

The actual transcript is unnecessary because we already have enough in the public domain to know the real issue with these speeches: the rapport and camaraderie between political leaders and financial institutions, which results in a frame of mind that accepts their arguments and privileges their views. In fact, the best example of this comes from a speech that Clinton habitually touts as an example of her get-tough approach to Wall Street.

On the stump and in debates, including last week’s in Brooklyn, Clinton highlights a speech she made at Nasdaq in December 2007, in the thick of the foreclosure crisis. “When I was serving as the senator from New York, I did stand up to the banks,” Clinton said last week. “I did make it clear that their behavior would not be excused.”

In the speech, available here, she castigated Wall Street for “playing a significant role in the current problems,” for fueling irresponsible mortgage lending through securitization, and for having “shifted risk away from people who knew what was going on onto the people who did not.” Clinton has been criticized for this speech, however, because of a few lines where she said “there’s plenty of blame to go around” for the housing bubble, and that “homebuyers who paid extra fees to avoid documenting their income should have known they were getting in over their heads.”

You can read this as a throwaway nod to personal responsibility, a typical politician’s remark, when the thrust of the speech indicts Wall Street. I would argue that spreading around responsibility for something that was a demonstrably criminal action by lenders fits with Wall Street’s moralizing about deadbeat borrowers who should have known the risks. It’s a form of public shaming. And it arguably led to the lack of accountability we saw for the financial crisis-- after all, if everybody is responsible, then ultimately nobody is responsible.

...When something could have been done to pressure mortgage servicers, Hillary Clinton, like many politicians, adopted their argument that they were prevented from helping homeowners. She believed their claims that they were hamstrung, when they weren’t. And I have to believe that’s attributable to proximity, access, and whose arguments get priority of place.

Wall Street purchases that priority of place simply by donating to campaigns, bringing politicians in for chats, marinating them in its worldview. Finance executives can make very compelling arguments about the complex intricacies of the financial system. They can sound charming and smart and logical. And in a moment of truth, they can get the payoff, when a powerful politician like Hillary Clinton makes a reasonable-sounding statement about mortgage servicers needing legal immunity.

That’s what the fuss over the Goldman Sachs speeches is all about: who you believe and who you trust as a politician. As Barack Obama wrote in The Audacity of Hope, “I can’t assume that the money chase didn’t alter me in some ways… your schedule dictates that you move in a different orbit from most of the people you represent.” Nobody is perfectly objective and unmoved by the people around them. It’s why politicians need a diversity of opinion and experience in their inner circles, to fight through the inevitable bubble mentality. And it’s why spending hours giving talks to financial elites matters.
We have a chance now to chase the money-lenders out of the temple of democracy. That chance doesn't come around every few years or even every decade. Hillary is no more fit for the presidency than any of the other conservative candidates of the status quo. Bernie-- and the congressional candidates running on his issues-- need our help against the full force and might of the establishment. That's what the thermometer is for... click it, please.
Goal Thermometer

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