Friday, February 12, 2010

Now There Are Two Senators Brown-- One Owned By Wall Street And One Wall Street Is Petrified Of


Guess which one's the friend of working families?

On March 19-- so just shy of a year ago-- the House overwhelmingly (328-93) passed a bipartisan bill introduced by Charlie Rangel (D-NY) to tax excessive bonuses paid by and to top executives of firms receiving TARP bailouts. This was aimed at AIG executives and other greed-obsessed Wall Street banksters and career criminals.
Although leading Democrats thought the bill's chances were threatened when House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) condemned it, about half of the GOP House members backed the measure. The lopsided House tally sent shock waves across the financial sector. Officials predicted dire results, saying the brightest talent could flee institutions that remain wobbly as the firms themselves leave the rescue program prematurely.

In the Senate, "Republicans voiced strong objections to the tax approach, calling it a smokescreen for the administration's faulty oversight of the Troubled Assets Relief Program. 'It sounds to me like these guys are trying to cover their tracks,' said Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), the No. 2 Republican leader"-- who has accepted $3,728,644 in thinly disguised bribes from the Finance Sector since first being elected to Congress.

When the House voted, the only Democrats crossing the aisle to vote with Boehner were Wall Street shills Melissa Bean (IL), Larry Kissell (NC), Michael McMahon (NY), Walt Minnick (Blue Dog-ID), Harry Mitchell (Blue Dog-AZ) and Vic Snyder (AR). On the Republican side, even the very worst and most dependable Wall Street puppets-- Paul Ryan (WI), Eric Cantor (VA), Roy Blunt (MO), Mark Kirk (IL), Mike Castle (DE), Pete Hoekstra (MI), Ken Calvert (CA), Brian Bilbray (CA) and Mean Jean Schmidt (OH)-- abandoned Boehner, McKeon, Dreier Hensarling, Sessions and Bachus to vote with the Democrats. It was Boehner's worst defeat since he became minority leader: only two more Republicans voting with him and Wall Street than with the Democrats and Main Street.

The bill seems to have gotten lost in the Senate, a wholly owned Wall Street subsidiary. Oh, wait-- not wholly owned. There is a small group of progressive Democrats-- very small-- who are actually independent of Wall Street. You may have noticed that last week Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Jim Webb (D-VA) introduced a bill targeting outrageous bonuses of banksters who are getting it out of TARP money.

Yesterday Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced an even more stringent bill that targets any bonus over $25,000-- where the Boxer-Webb bill goes after anything over $400,000. I'm with Sherrod on this one. He says he wants to use the proceeds to help small businesses expand and hire new employees. In a talk about how Wall Street benefited from the infusion of taxpayer dollars via TARP, he explained why he thinks Main Street needs to be helped along now and how this is a way to get that started. “It’s time," he said, "for Wall Street to return the favor to Main Street. While big banks have rebounded thanks to the help of American taxpayers, small businesses are still struggling. If a big firm that received taxpayer help is now paying out massive bonuses, they should be able to help American small businesses expand operations and hire new workers. Small business growth will create jobs and get our economy back on track." His office sent out details after his press conference:
The average executive at Bank of America received a $400,000 bonus one year after the bank took $45 billion from taxpayers through the TARP program. The average worker in Ohio makes just over $41,000 a year.

Last week, insurance giant AIG-- which received $182 billion in government assistance-- paid out more than $100 million in bonuses to employees. Last year, when news of the company’s bonus plans were unearthed, employees pledged to return $45 million in bonuses. Despite this, the company has recouped less than half of that pledged amount. Investment bank Goldman Sachs-- which received $10 billion from the TARP program and $12.9 billion in taxpayer aid through the AIG bailout-- reported last week that it would pay out $16 billion in bonuses.

Despite the assistance they have received from taxpayers, many banks receiving TARP funds have cut small business lending. In November, the U.S. Treasury Department reported that the 22 largest financial institutions receiving taxpayer assistance reduced lending by $10.5 billion over the previous six-month period. These same banks reduced small business loans by another $1 billion according to a new report released in December.

Brown’s bill would impose a 50 percent tax on all bonuses-- both cash and stock pay-outs-- in excess of $25,000 given to executives at firms that received taxpayer-funded assistance through the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. The revenues would be used to fund direct loans for small businesses administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Small businesses create more than 64 percent of jobs nationwide, but many are struggling to access credit during the recession. Brown is the author of the Small Business Emergency Loan Relief Act, which would temporarily raise the maximum loan amounts for Small Business Administration (SBA) loan products and waive certain fees. Through the SBA provisions passed in the Recovery Act, more than 2,100 Ohio small businesses have received loans. Brown worked to connect more than 1,000 Ohio small businesses with resources on Recovery Act opportunities through a series of workshops he hosted across the state.

Similar legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT).

“Fifteen months after Wall Street drove our economy off a cliff, the same big banks that survived thanks to taxpayer support have returned to their old ways. Rather than invest in our nation’s economic recovery or shore up their balances, these banks have chosen to reward themselves with excessive bonuses,” Welch said. “By diverting outsized bonuses to small business lending, this legislation will support our local economies in a way that Wall Street has failed to.”

I can imagine Rahm Emanuel and Lawrence Summers throwing darts at a picture of Sherrod Brown now, maybe even calling up Kyl and McConnell to plan some strategy. Or asking the other Senator Brown if he'd like to work with them on something more... um... Wall Street-oriented "bipartisan."

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