Friday, October 16, 2015

Democrats, Republicans and Reining in Corporate Greed

Almost every Republican presidential candidate has released some version of a "tax policy" plan and each plan calls for basically the same thing: large tax cuts for the rich, reductions in the corporate tax rate - never mind that many huge corporations already pay no taxes - and elimination of the estate tax, a tax that only impacts estates above $5.35 million.  Little is said in these plans as to where the lost revenues will be made up, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that it will be by slashing programs that benefit most Americans.  On top of this, regulations of big business will be slashed so that vulture capitalism can run rampant.  So how will the GOP sell the same failed voodoo economics they have pushed for the last 35 years?  By pandering to racial fears, religious extremism, and other dog whistle issues, of course, to convince the ignorant to vote against their own best interests.  A column in the New York Times looks at the huge divide between the GOP proposals and the Democrat alternatives. Here are highlights:
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders had an argument about financial regulation during Tuesday’s debate — but it wasn’t about whether to crack down on banks. Instead, it was about whose plan was tougher. The contrast with Republicans like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, who have pledged to reverse even the moderate financial reforms enacted in 2010, couldn’t be stronger.
For what it’s worth, Mrs. Clinton had the better case. Mr. Sanders has been focused on restoring Glass-Steagall, the rule that separated deposit-taking banks from riskier wheeling and dealing. And repealing Glass-Steagall was indeed a mistake. But it’s not what caused the financial crisis, which arose instead from “shadow banks” like Lehman Brothers, which don’t take deposits but can nonetheless wreak havoc when they fail. Mrs. Clinton has laid out a plan to rein in shadow banks; so far, Mr. Sanders hasn’t.
But is Mrs. Clinton’s promise to take a tough line on the financial industry credible? Or would she, once in the White House, return to the finance-friendly, deregulatory policies of the 1990s?

Well, if Wall Street’s attitude and its political giving are any indication, financiers themselves believe that any Democrat, Mrs. Clinton very much included, would be serious about policing their industry’s excesses. And that’s why they’re doing all they can to elect a Republican.

Many liberals feel that the Obama administration was far too lenient on the financial industry in the aftermath of the crisis. After all, runaway banks brought the economy to its knees, causing millions to lose their jobs, their homes, or both. What’s more, banks themselves were bailed out, at potentially large expense to taxpayers (although in the end the costs weren’t very large). Yet nobody went to jail, and the big banks weren’t broken up.

But the financiers didn’t feel grateful for getting off so lightly. On the contrary, they were and remain consumed with “Obama rage.”

By any normal standard, President Obama has been remarkably restrained in his criticisms of Wall Street. But with great wealth comes great pettiness: These are men accustomed to obsequious deference, and they took even mild comments about bad behavior by some of their number as an unforgivable insult.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has proved highly effective, and the “too big to fail” subsidy appears to have mostly gone away. That is, big financial institutions that would probably be bailed out in a future crisis no longer seem to be able to raise funds more cheaply than smaller players, perhaps because “systemically important” institutions are now subject to extra regulations, including the requirement that they set aside more capital.

While this is good news for taxpayers and the economy, financiers bitterly resent any constraints on their ability to gamble with other people’s money, and they are voting with their checkbooks. Financial tycoons loom large among the tiny group of wealthy families that is dominating campaign finance this election cycle — a group that overwhelmingly supports Republicans.  

[T]his lopsided giving is an indication that Wall Street insiders take Democratic pledges to crack down on bankers’ excesses seriously. And it also means that a victorious Democrat wouldn’t owe much to the financial industry.

If a Democrat does win, does it matter much which one it is? Probably not. Any Democrat is likely to retain the financial reforms of 2010, and seek to stiffen them where possible. 

[W]hile there are some differences in financial policy between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders, as a practical matter they’re trivial compared with the yawning gulf with Republicans.

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