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Jul. 30 2010 — 12:08 pm | 164 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

Republicans block small-business bill, play into Democrats’ hands

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R) o...

Image by AFP/Getty Images via @daylife

I didn’t have a chance to write about this yesterday, but didn’t the GOP just become the goose that laid the golden egg for Democrats? Apparently doubling down on outright obstructionism seems to have become the sole Republican strategy. And yesterday it seemed to play directly into the Democrats’ strategic plan, at least if my political calculus of the other day is correct.

Senate Republicans blocked progress on small-business legislation Thursday morning, handing Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) his second legislative defeat of the week.

A vote to cut off debate on a substitute amendment offered by Senate Small Business Committee Chairman Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) failed by a vote of 58 to 42.

Blocking any movement on the DISCLOSE Act can’t be spun as being obstructionist on the jobs front, but I can’t conversely see how Democrats won’t have a field day trouncing Republicans over blocking this bill. That is particularly true when you take into consideration this hot-off-the-presses Gallup poll that shows Americans are, “three times as confident” in small businesses vs. big businesses.

With Republican’s on record as playing primarily a dampening role in financial/Wall Street reform and Sen. Joe Barton’s infamous apology to BP still relatively fresh in peoples’ memories (and trust that that will come up repeatedly when campaigning for the midterms kicks in), this just seems like a dumb move.

Ostensibly Republicans are trying to hand Harry Reid and the Democrats as many legislative losses as possible to make them look ineffective. But if Democrats’ calculus is that they’ve passed the major reforms of which they’re going to be able prior to November and from here on in they campaign on what accomplishments they’ve achieved (and health care reform keeps heading in the right direction), while highlighting Republicans’ unwillingness to deal with the issues facing the nation, then this block-block-block strategy seems destined only to help Reid and the Democrats.

One wonders if Greg Sargent is still as skeptical about this potential strategy as he was yesterday.



Jul. 28 2010 — 3:32 pm | 232 views | 0 recommendations | 4 comments

Campaign finance reform and Democrats’ midterm playbook

Chuck Schumer at the LGBT Pride parade, New Yo...

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Having failed to receive the support of a single Republican, Democrats’ campaign finance reform bill, the DISCLOSE Act, seems now to be banished to legislative limbo and their efforts in bringing the bill to a vote all in vain. Indeed, it was hard to see how Democrats thought they would be able to squeak out a win in the first place.

All along Reid and Schumer needed at least one Republican and all of the usual suspects seemed unlikely for some time. Scott Brown spelled out his opposition to the bill back on July 14. And both Snowe and Collins had expressed not inconsiderable amounts of skepticism in regards to the bill well in advance of the lead up to yesterday’s vote.

So then why, after the care and attention paid to health care and financial reform, bring a bill forward that, despite last minute horse racing, seemed doomed to failure all along?

Over at the New York Times The Caucus, Dalia Sussman notes that while public polling seemed to indicate strong support for the bill, which was designed to address some of the financing concerned raised by the Supreme Court’s overwhelmingly unpopular decision in Citizens United, Democrats’ failed efforts are unlikely to give them much traction at the polls in November,

Nevertheless, as Americans’ concerns are mainly focused on the economy and unemployment, it seems highly unlikely that campaign finance reform will be an important issue for them in the upcoming midterm elections. Indeed, the issue is a tough enough sell in elections during a good economy. A September 2000 ABC News/Washington Post poll tested the importance of 17 issues to people’s vote decision that year. Where did campaign finance reform rank? Dead last.

The answer, I think, is that it’s all in the narrative. continue »



Jul. 26 2010 — 4:28 pm | 38 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

Why strong financial reform was so important

Remember when the Securities and Exchange Commission bringing a suit against Goldman Sachs was big news? Goldman is the darling of Washington financiers and the idea that the SEC could sue them over, of all accusations, fraud, was a lightning rod of news in the lead up to financial reform just four months ago.

Yours truly made the resplendent comment that the move signalled there were, “no sacred cows, anymore.” Those were exciting heady days before things with financial reform had really started to unfold. So what has happened with Goldman and the SEC since then?

Here’s what,

Goldman, Sachs & Co., the broker-dealer, has agreed to a settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to resolve the SEC’s pending case against the firm relating to disclosures in the ABACUS 2007-AC1 CDO offering. The settlement is subject to the approval of the United States Court for the Southern District of New York.

The firm entered into the settlement without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations. As part of the settlement, however, we acknowledged “that the marketing materials for the ABACUS 2007-ACI transaction contained incomplete information. In particular, it was a mistake for the Goldman marketing materials to state that the reference portfolio was ‘selected by’ ACA Management LLC without disclosing the role of Paulson & Co. Inc. in the portfolio selection process and that Paulson’s economic interests were adverse to CDO investors. Goldman regrets that the marketing materials did not contain that disclosure.”

We believe that this settlement is the right outcome for our firm, our shareholders and our clients.

To cut to the chase: in order to not have to publicly admit that they committed fraud, Goldman Sachs paid $550 million to settle a case with the SEC over… committing fraud. For all the fanfare and speculation over the announcement of the SEC’s case against Goldman, the settlement, which was announced on July 15, barely warranted a blip in the news cycle. Goldman Sachs did not deny fraudulent behavior costing their own customers approximately $3.7 billion and it basically went by unnoticed in most news circles.

That is a startling fact and it helps to demonstrate why overhauling the American financial sector was so important. When a $550 million settlement over a fraud case involving the country’s previously most reputable investment bank — a bank that initially called the suit, “completely unfounded in law and fact” — goes by basically unnoticed, you know that there are serious structural problems with how finance in the country conducts its business.



Jul. 19 2010 — 6:18 pm | 149 views | 0 recommendations | 6 comments

Democrats gain six point lead on generic ballot

WASHINGTON - APRIL 22:  Senate Majority Leader...

Image by Getty Images North America via @daylife

Republicans have not been quiet about their opposition to Democratic efforts to pass financial reform legislation aimed at reining in Wall Street and avoiding another financial collapse like that experienced in 2008. Indeed, leading Republicans got busy calling for the repeal of the legislation before it had even passed the Senate.

The Republicans’ strategy seems to be centered around the idea that opposition to government spending, which has been running rampant in independent voting circles, and a general mistrust of government overreach would, as in the health care reform debate, resonate more strongly with Americans.

However, breaking polling indicates that Republicans may have misread voters on this issue. continue »



Jul. 14 2010 — 1:35 pm | 189 views | 0 recommendations | 4 comments

Vast majority of Americans disagree with Kyl and Republicans on Bush tax cuts

WASHINGTON - JANUARY 27:  Senate Minority Lead...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

At Talking Points Memo, Brian Beutler highlights the continued defense of the Bush administration tax cuts by ranking Republican senators like Jon Kyl, Mitch McConnell, Judd Greg, and John Cornyn. Speaking to the tax cuts, set to expire in 2011, Cornyn had this to say,

The problem is, you know, when you raise taxes, which is what that will be if no action is taken, taxes will go up on dividends and on capital gains on a whole lot of people who aren’t rich. And the problem with that in a recession is it further contracts capital formation and investment which means it has a negative impact on jobs. I really can’t think — if you really set out to try to come up with ways to discourage people from investing and creating new jobs and growing their business, I can’t think of a more comprehensive agenda for doing that than what we’ve seen over the last year and a half.

However, the public is much less sanguine about the cuts than Cornyn, at least when it comes to deficit reduction. According to a poll conducted for Bloomberg Businessweek, “[t]he only deficit-reduction measure that gets strong support in the poll is higher taxes on upper-income Americans.”

J. Ann Selzer from the public opinion research firm Selzer and Company, who conducted the poll for Bloomberg, was able to shed some additional light on the claim. According to documents provided by Selzer, when respondents were asked,

I’m going to mention some general approaches that could be considered to help decrease the deficit—some of which may mean a sacrifice for you and your household. For each, please tell me if you think this approach should be strongly considered, just considered, or taken off the table.

Allow the income tax rate for the highest income earners to go back up to where it was 10 years ago.

41% of respondents said they would “strongly consider” the option and 31% said they would “consider” letting tax rates on highest earner to go back up to pre-Bush levels. Also scoring highly was, “[o]n Social Security, remove the cap so that wages over $107,000 a year are subject to the tax” (39% strongly considered, 40% considered).

Average Americans have had to tighten their belts in order to weather the country’s worst economic storm in recent history, but haven’t seen the same from their wealthier counterparts. Unlike ranking Republicans, apparently they strongly believe that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.


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    I'm a Canadian blogger who spends far too much time reading and writing about US politics. I've been involved in various forms of political organizing for the past decade, some of which has earned me recognition and other of which has earned me the title of "no good punk".

    I also blog at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the Commons, Beams and Struts, and The Washington Examiner's Opinion Zone.

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