Friday, October 07, 2011

Should We Let Bygones Be Bygones?


TARP mastermind John Boehner recently sat for a portrait by Matt Hedlund

Last year David Korten laid out the entire raison d'etre for #OccupyWallStreet in a book he'd been working on about the financial meltdown, Agenda For A New Economy. Early on he mentions a stat he got from Bloomberg in March 2009, five months after Congress passed Bush's TARP bailout of the failed banksters: "[T]otal federal bank bailout commitments and guarantees topped $12.8 trillion, nearly the equivalent of the total U.S. GDP. Yet private bank credit still wasn't flowing into the real economy more than a year later."

It's now been three and a half years since the bailout, and the banksters have gotten fabulously wealthy because of those tax dollars and still haven't opened up the credit spigot to Main Street or to American taxpayers. The TARP vote was one of the most disastrous mistakes of the American political elite in our lifetimes. I'd like to reexamine it briefly since we're headed for a tumultuous election season in which it might be handy to have certain facts down pat.

There wasn't one vote in the House on TARP; there were two. After Bush sent the bill his financial team insisted on over to the House, the vote came on September 29-- and it failed 228 against to 205 in favor. 95 Democrats and 133 Republicans just said NO to the gigantic ripoff. These NO votes came from across the political spectrum. Progressive Democrats like Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Carol Shea-Porter (D-VT), John Lewis (D-GA), John Conyers (D-MI), Hilda Solis (D-CA/now Secretary of Labor), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Donna Edwards (D-MD) made common cause not just with Blue Dogs like Jim Matheson (UT), Collin Peterson (MN) and Gabby Giffords (AZ) but with Republicans-- also from across their political spectrum, radical right fanatics like Bachmann, Franks, Foxx, Garrett, Mean Jean Schmidt, Pence, and Hensarling to mainstream conservatives like Dent, Biggert and Walter Jones.

All hell broke lose when it failed, the Bush Treasury Department screeching that the world would end, never mentioning that they meant by "the world" their personal investment portfolios and those of all their wealthy friends. They went into high gear-- and it was all fear and fear and scare and scare until the House voted again, on an even worse bill. They put together a small team of top Wall Street-oriented Republicans who favored the bailout and told them to crack heads, twist arms, hand out Wall Street and K Street promissory notes and $150 billion in pork projects and get that bill passed. Their heroes (with the amount of legalistic bribes from the financial sector in brackets next to their names) were:

John Boehner (R-OH- $5,432,255) rewarded with the Speakership
Eric Cantor (R-VA- $5,636,715) rewarded with the Republican Majority Leadership
Paul Ryan (R-WI- $2,525,572) rewarded with the House Budget chair and a national spotlight
Roy Blunt (R-MO- $4,815,944) rewarded with a Senate seat
Spencer Bachus (R-AL- $5,076,674) rewarded with the House Financial Service Committee chair

That one was voted on a few days later, on October 3, and it passed 263-171. There were no longer 133 Republicans voting NO. After Boehner, Cantor, Bachus, Blunt and Ryan got through with them, 25 changed their minds. Charlie Dent (R-PA) was one of them. Watch:

So which other "fiscally conservative" Republicans seeking reelection again next year voted for the TARP bailout in 2008? Here's a partial list, mostly Republicans who might be vulnerable if their constituents figured out that they voted for the bailouts while posing as opponents to them. The creeps in bold are the ones who voted NO the first time and then switched their vote under pressure from the Boehner's goon squad.
Judy Biggert (R-IL)
Mary Bono Mack (R-CA)
Vern Buchanan (R-FL)
Ken Calvert (R-CA)
Dave Camp (R-MI)
John Campbell (R-CA)
David Dreier (R-CA)
Vern Ehlers (R-MI)
Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)
Jim Gerlach (R-PA)
Wally Herger (R-CA)
Pete Hoekstra (R-MI)- running for Senate now
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
Peter King (R-NY)
John Kline (R-MN)
Dan Lungren (R-CA)
Buck McKeon (R-CA)
Gary Miller (R-CA)
Sue Myrick (R-NC)
Mean Jean Schmidt (R-OH)
Pete Sessions (R-TX)
Chris Shays (R-CT)- running for Senate now
John Sullivan (R-OK)
Mac Thornberry (R-TX)
Pat Tiberi (R-OH)
Fred Upton (R-MI)
Frank Wolf (R-VA)

Ken Calvert, a phony-baloney from Southern California, just got his ass saved by redisticting. He surely would have lost his next reelection bid in his old district, which has now been cut into a very red Orange County district (in which he will run, safely, unless voters there realize what a hypocrite he is) and a pretty blue Riverside district. The Democrat running there is Mark Takano. We asked him for a comment on the OccupyWallStreet movement and he went right back to the roots of the problem:
To date no one has been prosecuted for the outright fraud that has precipitated so much economic suffering. In fact, the very financial institutions who caused the economic mess were actually bailed out by the government. Ordinary citizens and homeowners were for the most part hung out to dry.

The home mortage crisis wrecked Riverside County's economy. Home foreclosures are high, many in my community who are hanging on to their homes have upside down mortages, and many construction workers are unemployed. The official unemployment rate here is 15%. Are they to blame for not reading the fine print on the mortage instruments sold to them? In some cases yes, but in many cases mortgage lenders deceived them. I cannot believe the Republicans in the Senate refuse to confirm an effective leader at the new Consumer Protection Agency whose mission is to protect citizens from this sort of fraud in the future. I am running for Congress in the new 41st Congressional District that covers highly impacted cities of Riverside, Moreno Valley, Perris, and Jurupa Valley. I will fight for effective consumer protection when I get to Congress. I will fight for banker accountability.

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