You it see all too often -- a grisly news story about a kid who runs his car off a cliff. We ask, "How could he have done it, how could he have been so reckless?" The answer invariably comes back: because he was drunk.
The same thing just happened to the Republicans in the Senate. Last night, to a person, like lemmings, every Republican Senator followed their leadership over a political cliff. They all voted against even debating a bill to hold the big Wall Street banks accountable. And the reason: they were drunk on Wall Street money.
It's really quite remarkable. Polls show two-thirds of the electorate strongly in favor of legislation to hold the big Wall Street banks accountable. And its not surprising, since most Americans believe -- correctly -- that the recklessness of the big Wall Street banks cost eight million Americans their jobs -- and cost millions more their savings and pensions.
Americans are furious that -- after coming with tin cups in their hands to the taxpayer, and receiving the largest bailout in world history -- these same huge banks are gorging themselves on billions in profits. They are furious that their CEO's and traders are stuffing ten-million-dollar bonuses in their pockets and flying off to celebrate in the South of France, while millions of Americans are still struggling to replace the jobs that these "masters of the universe" destroyed.
Remember that this vote comes in the midst of daily news stories about how the Big Kahuna of the Wall Street banks -- Goldman Sachs -- made billions by betting against the American housing market, and selling investors securities that were selected to fail.
The thing that is so outrageous to most Americans about the Goldman Sachs story isn't their guilt or innocence of securities fraud. The whole story puts on public display what these big Wall Street banks actually do for a living. They don't make loans to businesses or individuals -- they gamble. People ask themselves, "We bailed these guys out so they could keep on gambling?" Might as well have bailed out a bunch of casinos or racetracks.
So in the midst of all of this, the Republicans vote as a block against holding the big Wall Street banks accountable? Many Democratic strategists are gleeful. This is like shooting fish in a barrel. The Washington Post headline read: "Financial overhaul blocked by GOP."
You can generally count on politicians to do things that at least appear to be in their political interests -- but not when their judgment is distorted by drink. Not when they are so drunk on Wall Street's money.
Just two weeks ago, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took Senator John Cornyn (the chief Senate Republican fundraiser) and went off to Wall Street to get their marching orders. Their big problem is that the transaction is right out in the open for everyone to see.
Let's face it, the spectacle of Senator Olympia Snowe being lead around with a ring in her nose by Mitch McConnell and his Wall Street buddies is just downright embarrassing.
And the unabashed hypocrisy of Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown -- who was elected as a tribune of the middle class -- bowing and scraping to Wall Street is politically suicidal.
Now Senate Majority Leader Reid has made clear that the Senate will continue to take cloture votes on this issue until Republicans come to their political senses and vote to allow debate on this bill.
The bottom line is this: in the end, the Senate will pass a bill to hold the big Wall Street banks accountable. They will pass such a bill because the public demands it, and because the Obama Administration and Democratic leadership understand they have such high political ground on this issue that they have no incentive to compromise on anything material.
So the only question for the Republicans is how long will it take for them to get tired of being publicly dragged, kicking and screaming, to support reform. The longer it takes, the more their marriage to Wall Street will be seared into the mind of the voters. So much the better for Democrats.
But for the country, it's a different matter. Way back in 2002, mega-investor Warren Buffet warned that the lack of regulation of Wall Street bets on derivatives were "financial weapons of mass destruction... and time bombs (threatening) the whole economic system."
In 2008, those bombs exploded, wiping out 8 million American jobs and trillions of dollars in savings. The fallout from that explosion devastated most of America.
But after their taxpayer bailout, Wall Street bankers went right back to building new financial time bombs and giving out billions in bonuses.
Today the rest of us are once again in grave economic danger from unregulated derivatives capable of destroying the U.S. economy all over again.
The timebomb Buffett warned us of is still ticking. Every day the Republicans delay, they put America at risk.
Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the recent book, Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com.
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