Friday, March 11, 2005

5 More for the No Credit Card Company Left Behind, Bankruptcy "Reform" bill

On Tuesday, 14 Senate Democrats incomprehensively voted with the Republican majority for cloture on S. 256, killing further debate on the bankruptcy "reform" bill and effectively ensuring its passage.

Yesterday, 18 Senate Democrats voted with the Republican majority to provide credit card companies with even more power than they already possess by finally passing the legislation, which will now head to the House.

You probably want to know who the extra Democrats were that went from "nay" on the vote for cloture to a "yea" on the vote for the bill's final passage, don't you?

Well, one member of the original 14 played the bait and switch by voting "nay" for the final bill--Joementum Lieberman. So the result was 5 additional Senate Democrats who bowed down to the corporate god Molech in the hopes they would still be able to get the support of the finance industry for their next campaign.

Here they are, five more Senators who will never be Democratic nominees for President:

Baucus (MT)
Bingaman (NM)
Inouye (HI)
Reid (NV)
Bayh (IN)

Congratulations, men. Like Esau of old, you have sold your birthright for a bowl of pottage.

Fortunately, not every Democratic in or out of Congress was amused.

Members of the party's more liberal wing were openly frustrated that Republicans had ample Democratic help passing the bankruptcy bill on a 74-to-25 vote in the Senate...

"This is not where we as Democrats ought to be, for crying out loud," said Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, after Republicans beat back amendment after amendment offered by Democrats in their efforts to soften the bankruptcy measure. "We are making a terrible mistake by thinking that we can have it both ways. We have to remember where our base is."

As the bankruptcy bill emerged, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, sought to rally members of his party around a series of amendments that would offer special protection for those whose bankruptcy was attributed to health care costs or other unexpected expenses. But on that and nearly every other attempted change, solid Republican opposition, bolstered by a handful of Democrats, prevailed.

On the call to cut off debate on the bill, 13 Democrats joined Republicans, some of whom said privately that they were astonished that Democratic opponents of the bill were losing so many from their own party.

The support drew a scolding from John Podesta, a top Clinton administration official who now leads the Center for American Progress, a Washington research group. In a memo widely circulated on Capitol Hill, Mr. Podesta said lawmakers who viewed the bankruptcy bill as an easy probusiness vote were overlooking the impact it could have on the middle-class Americans who are being sought after by both parties.

In an interview, Mr. Podesta said the support by some Democrats for legislation like the bankruptcy bill contributed to the party's continuing erosion among working-class voters. "You have got poll after poll saying there is no distinction between the parties on these core economic issues and one has to say, no wonder," Mr. Podesta said.

Amen, brother, halleluyah.

It's Time: Harkin '08

It's Time: Podesta '08

It's Way Past Time: Kennedy '08

Thursday, March 10, 2005

What Is To Be Done, II

The Kos has a link to a Democratic staffer in the House who tries to explain the behavior of the 14 Senate Democrats who voted to throw consumers and working families under the proverbial bus on behalf of the credit card cartel.

From an academic, Rational Choice kind of perspective, his conclusion sadly makes some sense--there are concentrated, organized interests with dollars to give on one side, and a disorganized, dispersed, and underfunded mass on the other side. So going for the Big Money isn't totally illogical. Politicians are rational actors, who will respond to various issues based on the balance of interests--and the potential for those interests to provide pleasure or inflict pain on the legislator.

Very well.

But as I posted over at Rising Hegemon, isn't it exactly this inbalance of competing interests and incentives that the political party in general, and the Democratic Party in particular, is supposed to correct?

The problem seems to be how the party's grassroots can apply pressure to the party's leadership, which can then act on the party's governing members. In the absence of organized interests--such as the AARP and others on the Social Security debate--how do progressives connect with the party's hierarchy to, at a minimum, express it's opinion and distaste for a bill such as this, and preferably, impress the party leadership that the grassroots are able and prepared to supply a "stick" should the party or a sizeable number of its members act contrary to progressive principles?

First, there needs to be an acknowledged point of contact. Is this, or should it be a) Dean and the DNC; b) Reid's office or c) Pelosi's office; or any and all of the above? Are either of the congressional leadership offices open to voices of the party's, as opposed to just that member's local or state constituency? If the DNC is not supposed to do policy, as Reid and Pelosi warned prior to Dean's election, what can the DNC accomplish?

Second, to the extent that their is a progressive consensus on a matter before Congress, what incentives or disincentives can be promised or threatened? Certainly to a limited extent, progressives on the web can be a source of campaign resources, or the lack thereof, as well as a source of negative or positive press.

Josh Marshall's TPM has been an illustration of what progressive activism can look like, regarding Social Security "reform". But obviously more needs to be done.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Brewing Storm

A while ago I made a post about how the nationalization of policy over the last half-century has had the unfortunate effect of diluting the Democratic Party's attention to local issues and reduced its connection to its constituencies.

I think its fair to say that yesterday's Democratic Senate vote over the bankruptcy "reform" bill is a pretty clear demonstration of that effect. Most of these Democratic Senators are so divorced from any contact with the voters that they were either just plain tone deaf to any arguments besides those of the credit card industry or worse, were being openly contemptious of any potential negative response from the voters or from the party's more progressive grassroots.

On a somewhat related point, a political party with real community roots would strive to improve economic conditions and livelihoods so that the credit card companys' siren song to obtain more credit would not have the lustful appeal it has for individuals and families seduced by television and radio advertising to buy or replace products and services they don't need. This is the dark side of capitalism, a system that requires more and more production and more and more selling and buying, which requires increasingly more credit to stay afloat, a system that will ultimately crash and burn when the people can't keep playing the game.

While the credit card oligarchy can loudly bray about its victory, it's seriously hard to see how policy choices like these are not going to create some serious blowback at some point in time, when the whole deck of cards (no pun intended) that is the "new economy" comes crashing down in a heap of debtor ruin from the corporate shell games of inflated profits from nonproductive pursuits (i.e. the jobs and profits "gained" from exorbitant interest rate and late fee charges), exported jobs, national deficits and inequitable rule-gaming that allows the power elite to run amock.

What Is To Be Done?

Here are the 14, 14, Democratic Senators who voted for cloture (i.e. voted to end debate) over the hideous bankruptcy "reform" bill, written and sponsored by the credit card industry and drug around the corridors of Congress for the past eight years until enough whores could be found to support it.

Biden (D-DE)
Byrd (D-WV)
Carper (D-DE)
Conrad (D-ND)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kohl (D-WI)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lieberman (D-CT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Salazar (D-CO)
Stabenow (D-MI)

Stabenow's was the most surprising name of the group, as I had pegged her as some sort of progressive for some reason.

Of the rest, two particularly stand out--Arkansas's Pryor and Lincoln. There's an analysis begging to be done here on the correlation between that state's per capita or median family income and the voting inclinations of these two "senators". Now, the usual spiel we get about the conservatism of the south is that it's cultural or social in origin, concerned about gays, guns, and God. But if that's true, than what the hell is the incentive for voting with the credit card companies on this bill? I have a hard time seeing where the homestate pressure is to support a bill like this. The state is poor. In 2003, it's per capita income was 24,296. If you're keeping score at home, that puts it 49th out of the 50 states (Thank God for Mississippi). What in the name of all that's holy can Lincoln and Pryor see with backing this bill?

And you thought Bush's re-election was bad. What use is to complain about Bush if our own guys and gals are committing fornication with the gods of greed?

So What Is To Be Done?

Well, we can remember Biden when he wants to run for prez in 08.

As for the others, I'm seriously considering providing financial and moral support for whoever runs against them in their next election cycle. I'll even support their Republican opponents. Why not? What use is it to have these corporate handmaids in Congress if they are going to vote like this? I'd rather have real Republicans to deal with.

Update: Atrios has a link to the number of bankruptcy filings by state and guess what? The top 11 states (those with the highest number of bankruptcy filings) are da red states. I'm not sure what to make of this other than it seems to be yet another blatant example of representatives voting against their states' economic interests. And oh, yeah, Arkansas clocks in at number 7. Nice going Lincoln and Pryor.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Paging Focus On The Family

As I am sometimes wont to do, I have wondered over to the Focus On The Family website to see what James Dobson--a prominent self-appointed spokesperson of the Christian community--has to say about the bankruptcy "reform" bill, a measure of utmost rancid slimeness, now slithering its way through Congress.

The only thing I could find was this, a piece of commentary and handwringing from February 21, that is, predictably, only concerned about the potential for an anti-anti-abortion amendment being tacked onto the bill (as it was last session) preventing ardent pro lifers from being able to declare bankruptcy in the event they find themselves financially and legally liable for any actions relating to their protests.

But Dobson and the FOTF gang seem to favor bankruptcy "reform". Their summary of the legislation goes like this--

America needs to reform its bankruptcy laws, but every time Congress tries to do so, harsh amendments aimed at punishing pro-lifers are dumped onto the bill. This year is no exception.

Isn't that special?

I guess the only families FOTF is concerned with are those whose millions will ensure they aren't affected.

FOTF, you are hypocrites, money changers running wild in the temple.

Bankrupt Politics

I'm linking to this post at DailyKos about the Leave No Credit Card Company Behind Bill, aka, the "bankruptcy bill" the Republicans are trying to ram through Congress.

Among the things I find deeply troubling about all this is the roster of Democrats that have been consistently voting with the Republicans on a series of amendments designed to aleviate the bill's adverse effects.

Two of the Democratic Senators that are carrying the water for credit card companies on this bill are not surprising--Delaware's Biden and Carper. MBNA is headquartered there as are a number of other credit card outfits calling Delaware home because of that state's favorable corporate tax policies.

The other two--Nebraska's Nelson and South Dakota's Johnson are more of a puzzle. I seem to recall that CitiBank has an operation in South Dakota or did at one time. That could be the basis for Johnson's vote. As for Nelson, I don't know.

But these two fellas are from the plain states, The Heartland, home of the original populist movement and the opposition to the wall street money cartels. And they're supposed to be Democrats. So what in the name of George W. Norris is going on out there? I wonder what the balance is of creditors to debtors out there in SD and Nebraska?

I take you back to President Truman:

I wonder how many times you have to be hit on the head before you find out who's hitting you?...

Plain Speaking

You remember the big boom and the great crash of 1929. You remember that in 1932 the position of the farmer had become so desperate that there was actual violence in many farming communities. You remember that insurance companies and banks took over much of the land of small independent farmers -- 223,000 farmers lost their farms....

I wonder how many times you have to be hit on the head before you find out who's hitting you?...

The Democratic Party represents the people. It is pledged to work for agriculture.... The Democratic Party puts human rights and human welfare first.... These Republican gluttons of privilege are cold men. They are cunning men.... They want a return of the Wall Street economic dictatorship....

President Harry S. Truman, campaigning in 1948 (thanks to Buzzflash for the link).

Today, from Nathan Newman:

Santorum's Sweatshop Expansion Bill -
Sweatshops Expanded, Overtime Attacked, and State Minimum Wage Laws Undermined

Yes, How Many Times?, is the question.