Congress, which had been so tied up in a partisan knot by right-wing extremists that it became unable to move, suddenly sprang loose at the end of the year. Before heading home for the holidays, it put on a phenomenal show of acrobatic lawmaking.
In one big, bipartisan spending bill, our legislative gymnasts pulled off a breathtaking, flat-footed backflip for Wall Street. They then set a dizzying new height record for the amount of money deep-pocketed donors can give to the two major political parties.
It was the best scratch-my-back performance you never saw. You and I didn’t see it, because it happened in secret — with no public hearings, debate, or even a vote.
Tucked into the year-end spending bill known as a “cromnibus” was a provision allowing Wall Street’s most reckless speculators to have their losses on risky derivative deals insured by us taxpayers. Such losses were a central cause of the 2008 financial crash and subsequent unholy bank bailout.
That crash led to the passage of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law to spare taxpayers from future Wall Street bailouts.
But with one, compact, 85-line section inserted deep inside the 1,600-page, trillion-dollar spending bill, Congress did a dazzling flip-flop, putting taxpayers back on the hook for the banksters’ high-risk speculation.
In this same spending bill, Congress also freed rich donors — such as the Wall Street bankers it just did a huge favor for — from the $100,000 limit on the donations that individuals can give to national party committees. In a gravity-defying stunt, lawmakers flung the limit on these donations to a record-setting 15 times higher.
So now, bankers who are grateful to either party for letting them make a killing on taxpayer-backed deals can give a combined total of over $1.5 million to each.
It’s always an amazing sight when Wall Street and Congress get together — especially when they do it behind closed doors.
OtherWords commentaries are free to re-publish in print and online — all it takes is a simple attribution to OtherWords.org. To get a roundup of our work each Wednesday, sign up for our free weekly newsletter here.