By Roland S. Martin
Sometimes it’s right to just turn off the television out of fear of seeing something that will drive your blood pressure to unacceptable levels.
No, I’m not talking about the trashy “Basketball Wives,” any of the “Real Housewives” shows or watching Donald “Chump” Trump play the media like a fiddle with his latest bombastic statements. What really has me hopping mad is watching HBO’s “Too Big to Fail”; the Academy Award-winning documentary, “Inside Job”; and Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story.”
What is consistent in each film is the extent to which the nation’s political brokers did the bidding of the nation’s financial community without any regard to the constituents who sent to them to state capitols and the nation’s capitol.
A reasonable person would think that after watching this economy almost go the way of the Great Depression, the nation’s political leaders would be willing to tell Wall Street’s lobbyists to go to hell. Instead, what we get are a bunch of sycophants willing to watch mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, neighbors and church members continue to be viciously attacked by the nation’s financial community, all in pursuit of the almighty buck.
Thank you, U.S. Senate Republicans. Your actions this week showed your callous disregard for Americans of all stripes and colors — folks who have seen $2 trillion disappear from their retirement accounts in the last 15 months.
This week, the GOP used the filibuster to prevent the U.S. Senate from taking a vote on President Barack Obama’s nomination of Richard Cordray, the former attorney general of Ohio, to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
By forcing the Senate to meet the 60-vote threshold, the GOP effectively scuttled Cordray from taking control of the office. By not having a fulltime director, the bureau, already approved by Congress and signed into law by Obama, can take only a limited number of actions.
Right now, the bureau can oversee bank regulations, but it can’t examine payday lenders and the mortgage servicers, which were ground zero for all of the shenanigans that destroyed the housing market and sent our economy into a tailspin.
Senate Republicans, except for Scott Brown of Massachusetts (who is facing a primary challenge next year from Elizabeth Warren, the architect of the bureau), incredulously have said that they desire to protect consumers but want a few changes to allegedly strengthen it.
What are those changes? 1) Get rid of a director and appoint a board. 2) Instead of having the Federal Reserve fund the bureau, let Congress set its budget. 3) Let banking regulators overrule the bureau.
These changes are beyond laughable, and Senate Republicans want to hold the director hostage because they couldn’t institute the changes when the law was passed.
First, appointing a bi-partisan board is a joke.
When folks in Washington, D.C. don’t want any accountability, they fall for the bi-partisan board. To stop them from working, all one party needs to do is simply not make its appointments. What do we get? Gridlock.
Second, by Congress approving the purse strings, they can threaten the bureau with the allegation of kowtowing to special interests. Just look at what’s happening with the Environmental Protection Agency. Big business fights regulations the EPA sets, and Congress simply refuses to fund the agency or makes draconian cuts, rendering the agency ineffective.
Lastly, if the banking regulators did their jobs in the first place, we wouldn’t be facing this mess.
The White House has to accept some of the blame for this situation. President Obama and his aides were naive to think by their not nominating bureau architect Elizabeth Warren to the post that the GOP would back down.
When Obama named Cordray on July 18, I found it laughable to listen to White House aides suggest that by backing away from Warren, the GOP might allow the Senate go into recess so that Obama could make a recess appointment.
Anyone with half a brain knew the only thing the GOP hated more than Warren was the actual agency that she conceived and got up and running.
One area where this White House has been grossly ineffective has been in rallying its supporters to put pressure on the Senate to confirm Obama’s nominees. Whereas President George W. Bush pulled out all the guns to put pressure on Congress to stop the logjam of appointees, the Obama administration has been far too timid and inconsistent in making the argument that the president deserves his appointees to have an up or down vote.
No matter the lip service from Senate Republicans about protecting consumers, Wall Street despises the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The last thing it wants is a strong, quasi-independent agency unwilling to let it does as it wishes, to the detriment of consumers.
These payday lenders have been so egregious that they’ve even gotten military families ensnared in their shameful financial schemes. Should we not look after them?
Senate Republicans lost the battle to get their changes into the law. So they’re willing to play politics with the bureau’s nominee, hoping to stall long enough for the November 2012 elections, when they hope to put a Republican president in the Oval Office to kill the agency.
The truth is that Republicans, Democrats and Independents have been severely damaged by the grotesque actions on Wall Street. And by blocking Cordray’s nomination, Senate Republicans have effectively said, “We don’t care about regular folks — we’re too willing to do the bidding of the financial industry.” After all, that industry contributed $6.5 million to Senate Republicans this year.
The money regular folks lost? “Who cares?” says the Senate GOP. “Just keep fattening our coffers, Wall Street lobbyists.”
Roland S. Martin is an award-winning CNN analyst and author of the book “The First: President Barack Obama’s Road to the White House as Originally Reported by Roland S. Martin.” Please visit his website at RolandSMartin.com. To find out more about Roland S. Martin and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page atwww.creators.com.