Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Vice-President Biden, Chains, Wall Street and Black People

If I stood in front of an audience which had a sizable proportion of Jewish Americans and claimed (even tongue in cheek) that my political opponent would have them "back in death camps" some people might consider that a desperate attempt for votes and something of a slanderous low blow. I might even get a verbal brush back from the ADL or AIPAC chiding me for lightly using such metaphors. But Vice-President Joe Biden is not a person who is worried about such things. In Danville, VA , a city that is roughly half black and happens to have been the final capital of the Confederacy, and in front of an audience which NBC News stated was representative of the city, Vice-President Biden spoke dismissively of Republican plans to change Wall Street regulation.
Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday that a Republican-led effort to loosen new regulations on Wall Street would put voters "back in chains." "Romney wants to, he said in the first 100 days, he's gonna let the big banks again write their own rules," Biden said of the GOP nominee's proposals to roll back the Obama administration's financial reforms. "'Unchain Wall Street!'" Lowering his voice, Biden added, "They're going to put you all back in chains."

Now of course the Administration in the person of one Stephanie Cutter, Obama deputy campaign manager, strongly defended Vice-President Biden's statements. 
We have no problem with those comments," said Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports."
Pressed on whether President Obama himself agrees with those comments, Cutter said the full context of the remarks was important.
"[Obama] probably agrees with Joe Biden's sentiments," Cutter said. "He's using a metaphor to talk about what's going to happen."
Ok. Fair enough. I think it's a bit odd to be using language that could be interpreted as fear mongering of a return to SLAVERY because of different ideas about Wall Street regulation but there you are. Perhaps leaving Wall Street to its own devices, free from regulation or the long arm of the criminal law really is akin to putting Americans -especially Black Americans - back in chains. So maybe I should thank Vice-President Joe Biden for having the courage and the commitment to stand up and say negative things about his political rivals, the Republicans. I mean it must take a lot of moxie to talk bad about your rivals. Not everyone has the guts to criticize people on the other side politically. As Biden implied, maybe those evil Republicans really do want to protect big banks and their executives from justice and not put those dastardly devils, those rascally reprobates, those piggish parasites into prison where they so richly deserve to be.

There's just one problem with Biden's self-serving narrative of the Administration being the one that wants to go after Wall Street while the Republicans want to coddle and protect Wall Street.

It's not true.

In news which was ignored by too many people the Justice Department recently announced that it would not be prosecuting Goldman Sachs or any of its employees for financial wrongdoing arising out of the 2008 financial crisis. This would be the same Goldman Sachs that was selling crappy bundled mortgage backed securities to clients and telling them they were A+ rated while describing them as crap in internal documents. This would be the same Goldman Sachs that journalist Matt Taibbi famously described as a vampire squid. for its centrality to the financial rot at the heart of American finance. And this would be the same Justice Department that is headed by Eric Holder, whose former law firm has Goldman Sachs as a client and whose boss, the President, received over $1 million in campaign contributions from Goldman Sachs in 2008 alone. The relative lack of engagement in going after systematic misdeeds by financial institutions has been noticed.
The problem isn't a shortage of scandalous stories. We've seen a lot of those. What we haven't seen, at least here in the United States, is a single indictment of a senior Wall Street banker from the United States Department of Justice. And that's what has these political insiders concerned.
Questions raised
A growing number of people are privately expressing concern at the Justice Department's long-standing pattern of inactivity, obfuscation and obstruction. Mr. Holder's past as a highly-paid lawyer for a top Wall Street firm, Covington and Burling, is being discussed more openly among insiders. Covington & Burling was the law firm which devised the MERS shell corporation that has since been implicated in many cases of mortgage and foreclosure fraud. Wells Fargo has already been implicated in the laundering of money for the Mexican drug cartels that have murdered as many as sixty thousand people, as well as having been found to have engaged in some of the most egregious borrower fraud. Now, as attorney Field notes, it's even illegally closing the bank accounts of unfriendly bloggers to extract revenge.
Despite its massive rap sheet, which includes investor fraud and the bribing of Alabama officials, and despite the SEC investigation of its "London whale" debacle, JPMorgan Chase is is defying a subpoena in California and refusing to turn its emails over to a judge. It's charged with the same kind of criminal activity that was behind the Enron scandal: manipulating energy markets. And despite Jamie Dimon's suggestion that the head of the "London whale's" group would be forced to return her ill-gotten millions, she was allowed to resign and keep the money. There's no sign that a criminal investigation of this affair is underway, despite Dimon's own admission that laws may have been broken.
In short, Biden is in a very flimsy glass house when it comes to throwing stones about who's gonna be tough on Wall Street. Very flimsy indeed. So if Biden wants to make the argument that Romney and Ryan are going to put Americans "back in chains" based on their love of Wall Street I would ask Biden when did he or Obama ever take the chains off? Is Biden really going to argue that I should vote for him because the Republicans won't prosecute Wall Street either? O-kay.
The problem as I see it is that the political establishment and the financial establishment are far too closely intertwined. When you can throw millions at a candidate, they're going to listen to what you say and return your phone calls. And when there is a revolving door between government and business, there should be no surprise that some of the people in government who are supposed to be regulating or even prosecuting business, occasionally need reminders of what their job description really is.
The Republicans, who have spent the past four years calling President Obama everything but a child of God, certainly do not have any room for sanctimonious outrage over Biden's remarks. But just because their hands are dirty doesn't mean that Biden's (and Obama's) hands are clean. There's some other analysis I want to get into about fear mongering, black people, progressives and the fall election but that will have to wait for a later post. Suffice it to say for now that no I don't believe that the world as we know it will come to an end if the "wrong" man should win.

What's your take?

Were Biden's comments appropriate?

Are the Republicans misconstruing them? Is this minor league nonsense?

Is there any difference between the two parties and their devotion to capital?

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