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Judy Frankel Headshot

Incumbents Who Boil My Blood

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The presidential race is just a diversion from our country's most serious problem: Congress's handling of our economy and our national debt. I harbor the twisted hope that you and your fellow Americans will get mad as hell remembering what happened before 2008 that planted the seeds of the economic mess in which we currently find ourselves.

I specifically recommend that you get riled up about the Financial Modernization Act of 1999 (aka the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act). This piece of legislation paved the way for credit default swaps to go largely unregulated, thereby creating the Ponzi scheme that we now euphemistically refer to as "the housing crisis."

We all know the bankers made out like bandits: bailouts and bonuses, no accountability and no need to show what they are doing with all that money.

Actually, we should be mad as hell at our congressmen who made this all possible. Let's take a walk down memory lane to the 106th Congress. In 1999, 340 house representatives, both Republicans and Democrats, voted for that ill-considered bill. Then, 54 senators, among them only one Democrat, voted for the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLB).

There are two possible explanations why our Congress would remove the last safeguard of the Glass-Steagall Act that protected our economy from boom and bust cycles: 1) our representatives were too busy to read the legislation, or too ignorant to know how the economy works; or 2) our representatives knew exactly what they were doing, and they did it anyway, possibly because their livelihoods depend upon voting for bills like GLB. In either case, such representatives don't deserve re-election. Not again.

Of some significance, Congressman Paul Ryan voted for the GLB Act. Now he doesn't just want to be Wisconsin's congressman, he wants to be a heartbeat away from the Oval Office and tell you how he will run our new economy.

You may be surprised to find out that there are a total of 104 incumbents (53 of whom happen to be Democrats) who voted for GLB and yet want your vote once again. Before you cast your vote for the incumbent, examine two factors: Have they signed Grover Norquist's Taxpayer Protection Pledge, and are they on the list of those incumbents who signed GLB? If they agreed to either one, fiscal responsibility and balancing the budget is not their priority.

A few special mentions: Sam Brownback (R) of Kansas is running for re-election as governor, but as U.S. Senator in 1999, he voted for GLB. Ben Cardin (D-MD) had voted for GLB as a house representative. Mike DeWine (R) was a senator for Ohio when he voted for GLB; now he is Ohio's attorney general, running for re-election. And Lincoln Chafee, the only independent who voted for GLB, is now running for reelection as the governor of Rhode Island.

Robert Weissman wrote my favorite article about the factors that led us into the housing crisis of 2008. I believe it's worthy of a look before you cast your vote on Tuesday.