Monday, October 22, 2012

Who's Got the Backs and the Backing of the Bankers?

A shout out to a book I loved and was once
described by a Senate aide as, "too big to read"
It's useful to look at numbers when considering the rhetoric of political candidates. Specifically, campaign contributions give us an insight into the expectations that individuals and industries have for one party or another, one candidate vs. the alternatives. When it comes to Wall Street, Romney has frequently cast the Obama-backed Dodd-Frank financial reform as a gift to big banks. For instance, in the October 16th presidential debate, Mitt Romney stated:
Dodd-Frank was passed. And it includes within it a number of provisions that I think has some unintended consequences that are harmful to the economy. One is it designates a number of banks as too big to fail, and they're effectively guaranteed by the federal government. This is the biggest kiss that's been given to -- to New York banks I've ever seen. This is an enormous boon for them.
Debate Transcript:

Now, Dodd-Frank wasn't perfect. Much of the law has yet to be implemented, and it left a lot up to the discretion of regulators who'd performed poorly in the run up to the financial crisis of 2008. That said, Wall Street institutions and their employees certainly appear reluctant to thank Obama for this "kiss". While Goldman Sachs employees were, notoriously in some circles, among Obama's top contributors in 2008, they certainly have fallen for the other guy this time around. I won't say that financier contributors detract from a politician's character; I would argue that their preference for Romney indicates whom they feel will provide the best deal for them and their industry.

Top Campaign Contributors (The organizations themselves did not donate , rather the money came from the organizations' PACs, their individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals' immediate families.)

Barack Obama
University of California $927,568
Microsoft Corp $680,769
Google Inc $661,996
Harvard University $535,405
US Government $528,603

Mitt Romney

Goldman Sachs $965,140
Bank of America $844,734
Morgan Stanley $768,216
JPMorgan Chase & Co $749,918
Credit Suisse Group $588,841

For good measure, Sheila Bair, the former Chairwoman of the FDIC--you know, the regulator responsible for selling off failed banks and protecting depositors--has a decidedly different take on Dodd-Frank than Romney and its commitments to "too-big-to-fail" banks.

Dodd-Frank, the financial reform law enacted in 2010, bans future bailouts of failing financial behemoths and requires instead that they be put into either bankruptcy or a government-run liquidation process. Dodd-Frank also requires big financial institutions to demonstrate that they can fail in bankruptcy without causing widespread damage to our financial system. If they cannot make this demonstration, the law authorizes, indeed requires the regulators and Secretary of the Treasury, to restructure them or break them up. Will you appoint leaders at the Treasury Department and financial regulatory agencies who are publicly committed to ending bailouts and who are prepared to fulfill their legal mandate to break up Too Big to Fail institutions?

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