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Monday, June 19, 2017

Let's Be Clear: Governing Does Involve Regulation

 U.S. Rep. Claudia L. Tenney (R-NY 22nd) is applauding House passage of the Financial Choice Act which, she claims, will free Wall Street from many of the constraints put in place after the 2008 financial crisis in the Dodd-Frank legislation. She claims loosening of regulations on Wall Street firms will help to grow the economy.  Last time (and every other time) we have loosened regulations for the Financial Business, the economy may have grown somewhat, but mainly for the rich and powerful who were the clear winners.  Let’s review a bit of recent history.
First, it was the lack of financial restraints under the Bush Administration that got us into the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.  A housing crisis taught us that mortgage lenders were not solvent enough to back-up their products and were using account monies to invest in near fraudulent stocks.  The complicity and scheming of too-big-to- fail banks and other financial firms led to bail-outs that further weakened the economy.  Because of lack of fiscal restraints, and sometimes despite existing laws and regulations, Wall Street, multi-national corporations and financial institutions wreaked havoc for the 99% of us living below the highest tax brackets.  The middle class was devastated.  The poorer members of society were caught in a whirlwind of economic assault. 
The Dodd-Frank bill was one way to put on the brakes and to restore some sanity to the economic system.  But Republicans, who believe firmly in trying the same old failed policies repeatedly -- theories and policies that do not work for democracy - became the Party of “NO.”  They obstructed every jobs bill, every infrastructure bill, every equal pay for women bill, and every bill that tried to give a boost to those living at poverty level, including the Affordable Care Act (derisively called “Obamacare”).  They succeeded in being the Party that slowed the recovery for the 99% of us while the 1% or less of the richest people in our nation prospered on the backs of all those who were suffering the consequences of Republican do-nothingness.
And now, Ms. Tenney wants us to swallow her line that “Americans have seen the worst economic recovery in 70 years.”  And she added: “Hardworking taxpayers have seen their paychecks stagnate, mortgages have grown increasingly expensive and small business owners are unable to access the capital they need to grow their businesses and to create jobs.”  But, whose fault is that?  She seems to imply that it is the fault of a past administration, and we all know which one she means. 
But, here’s the rub, when the Republicans took control of the House in 2010, and then of the Senate in 2014, they have done very little or nothing to advance the standing of blue collar or white collar workers.  On the contrary, they have spent all their time playing politics with recovery, blocking legislation that would have put unemployed people to work, or trying to get rid of every social program they term as a “hand-out” or “social welfare.”  In other words, Tenney’s own Party has been the major contributing factor to the decline and fall of the middle class, to the lack of healthcare access for every child in this nation and to that slow economic recovery.
Let me make one more point in this regard.  It has been the Republican Party that has tried to eliminate every organized entity that might lend-a-hand to consumers in general.  They started on Affordable Health Care (ACA) repeal early which has culm innated in their abominable legislation that will leave at least 20 million people uninsured. And within the ACA, they targeted the appeals panel that would have given consumers a voice and support when Big Pharm and large insurance companies tried to cheat them out of coverage or access to services.  Look carefully consumers: there has been a covert aggression by Republicans on Consumer-based advocacy units throughout government, and you will have little recourse left if you want to grieve any decision by these huge companies.  Let me simply list some of those consumer-oriented agencies and programs that have been weakened or eliminated by the legislative mouthpieces of the wealthy.
Head Start – it isn’t just day care; it was also designed to help parents advocate for their children
Universal Pre-k education:  not passed due to Republican opposition, even though early education has been shown to bolster the chance for good outcomes throughout later grades
Consumer Protection Agency -- Republicans are working on a new plan for weakening the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by stripping the agency of its independence and severely limiting its ability to go after corporations. House Republicans intend to de-fang the consumer protection agency and make it more susceptible to political leverage by granting more control and oversight to the White House so the agency director can be fired by the President.  In addition to the leadership changes, the CHOICE bill would strip the agency of its power to enforce a law that bans companies from using “unfair” or “deceptive” practices. That would bar the CFPB from being able to take enforcement actions against some financial companies such as Wells Fargo.  A staff attorney for the National Consumer Law Center said the proposals would "kick the legs out from under the CFPB," which reported it had provided nearly $12 billion in relief and assistance to more than 29 million consumers from its 2011 opening through the end of February 2017.
Planned Parenthood – not just a center for abortion counseling and procedures, or access to contraceptives, but a clinic designed to support women’s health and to encourage women to advocate for themselves.  Republicans have always feared the advocacy of the underclasses because they know how often and how thoroughly they have robbed those classes of resources, dignity and money to enrich themselves.
Legal Services Corporation – has been gradually eroded by Republican budget cuts and is now marked for elimination in Trump’s Budget. 
Here are some other quasi-advocacy groups targeted for major cuts in the Trump Budget:  Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Community Action Agencies, Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigations Board, U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.  It is possible that the Trump administration will not be satisfied until all forms of citizen advocacy and appeal are undermined.
Tenney’s parting shot is pure political gibberish: “It will require financial institutions to be strongly capitalized to lay the groundwork for a stable resilient financial system that can support a robust economy.”  Translation:  What the Financial CHOICE Act will do is to strip away restraints upon commercial activity so that capitalist oligarchs can proceed to enrich themselves once again at the expense of all those who work hard just to live from paycheck to paycheck. 
Let me be quite clear here:  The ‘Free Market’ does not exist except in the fantasy world of conservative ideologists who want you to believe that freedom is that with which markets and marketeers concern themselves.  Don’t be bamboozled by their devaluing of the word ‘Free.”  Capitalists are only concerned with what advances profits.  That is their greed creed.  They could care less about freedom, equality, justice, or any other values of a Democracy.  Those are not their core values unless they can be used to sell you something! 
Let me be crystal-clear:  the values, aims and hoped-for outcomes of Capitalism – Big Business – Financiers – Banks – and for-profit industries are very rarely compatible with the values, aims, and hoped-for outcomes of a Democracy.  They are indeed, at most times, incompatible with one another. (see my posting of April 15, 2017)
So, let us be even clearer:  the role of democratic government is not to accommodate, inculcate, or boost the aims, values and purposes of Capitalism (except when doing so can bring greater freedom, opportunity, justice and equality to all its citizens).  The role of a democratic government in relation to capitalism and business enterprises is not to do their bidding, but to uphold, as its primary responsibility, the constitutional verities on which this nation and its government was and is founded. 
One of the major faults of Capitalism and business enterprises is that they have an unfortunate tendency to want to control government, to use government, and to weaken the power of government to direct their enterprises and their outcomes.  What they forget and often ignore is that they are creations of the State with certain responsibilities spelled-out in their charters and documents of incorporation.  They are not ‘persons’ or ’individuals’ or ‘citizens’ with inalienable rights and freedoms, despite the egregious error of the SCOTUS in declaring them to be such in relation to free speech in the “Citizens United” decision.  There is absolutely nothing in the Constitution which would support that conclusion.
Therefore, it must be made abundantly clear that IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF OUR DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT to restrict, regulate, direct and call to account all business enterprises in order to place upon them the duty and obligation of acting as creatures of this democratic form of Government.   The values, truths, freedoms and the responsibilities of this Democracy come first; the operation of business enterprises must be brought into accord with those democratic principles. 
Congresswoman Tenney has another assertion in her statement that cannot go unchallenged.  She said, “In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, Washington Liberals passed the Dodd-Frank Act with the promise that this sweeping legislation would provide a stronger, healthier economy.  Instead Americans have seen the worst economic recovery in 70 years.”
Having already dealt with the last part of that quote, let us concentrate on the first part.  Evidently, Tenney fails to comprehend that the Dodd-Frank legislation was primarily designed, not to build a stronger economy (except as a by-product) but to curtail and prevent financiers, bankers, industries and corporations from continuing practices that, in the final analysis, seriously harmed and hurt millions of fellow-citizens of our nation.  Dodd-Frank took on the anti-democratic values and behaviors of unscrupulous practitioners of unprincipled profit-taking and profit-making, and offered a message that must be heeded:  capitalism must work within the confines of democratic and constitutional principles and values.  Neither Capitalism nor other entities (such as Religions and Educational institutions) can be given a green light to make up rules that circumvent the law – this is a government of laws, not of men or of business enterprises, and Capitalism must be restrained when it chooses to circumvent its democratic responsibilities.
I have submitted to you my criticisms of Congresswoman Tenney’s statement.  Perhaps Congresswoman Tenney doesn’t know her history, doesn’t understand the intent of the Constitution (it’s in the Preamble), or doesn’t have the capacity to deal with the demands of her oath of office.  Or, maybe she is just parroting a Party line or an abusive right-wing ideology that is, at its core, anti-democratic.  She seems to believe strongly that her role, and the role of our government, is to bolster the economy and to strengthen Business of all sizes by removing restraints, restrictions and regulations (or whole laws as in the case of the ACA) that were intended to prevent businesses from exploiting citizens, laws, courts, tax codes and legislation for their own aggrandizement.  Perhaps too, she has little understanding of the radical Far Right cohort that has more than once reared its ugly head in the form of big business oligarchs who despise democracy.  Furthermore, it seems to me she may harbor a limited view of just what her oath of office means:  uphold the Constitution and its principles as your primary responsibility instead of acting as though the business of governing consists mainly in supporting oligarchs and plutocrats like Donald Trump and his multi-millionaire/billionaire Cabinet.
There is this simple fact to consider: there are no references in the Constitution to protecting, boosting, or even supporting Capitalism and Big Business interests, although there are a few references to regulating Commerce with other nations and restricting commerce between the states, and there is also mention of protection for inventions, property and copyright.  In contrast, there are many references to supporting the welfare and freedoms of the People, as citizens and voters.  So, here’s a bit of advice for Congressional representatives:  
First, do no harm to the People;
Second, look after the welfare of your at-home constituency above that of your group of "sponsors" 
Third, put business interests in proper perspective and guard against their takeover of government, and replacement of democratic values;
Fourth, make your oath of office real by putting liberty and justice for the 99% of us above the protection of the wealthiest and most privileged few 

If you can’t get on-board with these fundamentals, then I suggest retiring from elected office!