Friday, May 6, 2011

The Senator from Hell

Shelby (center) Tours Tornado-Devastated Neighborhood
Richard Shelby is the 15th richest United States senator from the 9th poorest state in America. According to The Great Class War plan of attack, he's getting richer with every passing year, while his Alabama constituents slide ever deeper into poverty and despair.  The fact that a sizeable chunk of the state was flattened by a series of damaging storms last month will only hasten that slide.

 True Republican senator that he is, Shelby wants to make sure his position in the kleptocracy stays secure by protecting predatory bankers from government oversight.  He wants to make sure that the Alabamans he supposedly represents remain confused by abusive credit card practices and mortgage companies as they struggle to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives. Even as his state is reeling from death and destruction, Senator Shelby flew back to Washington this week to do his real job: screwing the little guy.

Shelby happened to be in his home state during the Congressional recess  when the deadly tornadoes hit. "This is hell," he proclaimed after touring the debris-ridden streets of Cullan, AL  "This looks like a war zone. I have seen some of the damage in the rest of the state, but this is some of the worst that I have seen."

So he rushed back to Washington and wasting no time, penned an urgent letter to President Obama. He and forty-odd of his closest millionaire Republican senator friends don't want the fledgling Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to get off the ground.  They admit consumers might need a protection or two, but it should be on their terms and the bankers' terms.  They think one person - the dreaded Elizabeth Warren - would be too powerful and just too damned undemocratic.  They want oversight -- oversight by them.  They want checks and balances. (checks for them, fair and balanced for Fox News). And if they don't get their way, they'll throw a big old filibustering tantrum.

Dave Dayen of Firedoglake thinks Shelby may have just shot himself in the foot with his demands, inadvertently providing the impetus for President Obama to finally, at long last, recess-appoint Warren.  Under the Dodd-Frank Law, the bureau must be made permanent by July.  Time is running out.  Obama himself may have been backed into a corner by the sly Republicans, well aware that Warren enjoys broad popular support and that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is probably just as opposed to the bureau as they are.  They can then either accuse the President of sidestepping the Senate confirmation process, or let him face the wrath of his progressive base if he continues to waffle. But if, as now seems likely, Warren does get in via recess appointment, it'll be ten times as hard to get rid of her next year, no matter who has the majority.  People -- even the constituents of Republicans -- appear to be waking up and not taking any more crap.  When Paul Ryan has to be police-escorted out the back door of a Town Hall, that is reason to rejoice.

But back to Shelby.  He has to at least give the appearance of fighting the Warren appointment and the existence of the whole bureau.  His major campaign contributors are from the financial services sector. Among his top donors have been JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.  He lists his net worth at a conservative average of $7.5 million, but as high as $30 million.

And to say that as ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee he has conflicts of interests is to be putting it kindly. Much of his wealth comes from his real estate holdings and their financing.  He came under heavy scrutiny during the 2008 mortgage meltdown when it was revealed that he had financed an apartment complex he owns in Tuscaloosa with a $5 million loan from Freddie Mac, the same government-sponsored mortgage company falling under  his committee's  oversight. He owns a real estate title company valued at $1-$5 million. His earmarks sent federal dollars toward construction of the new $60 million science building at the University of Alabama -- which he humbly named after himself and wife Annette.(It kind of reminds me of Monticello). Tens of millions in additional earmarks have helped the college expand its enrollment.  His apartment complex houses mainly university students. The banks make billions in college loans. And round and round the great world spins.

What Being a Senator Will Buy You


Valerie Long Tweedie said...

I sincerely hope Dave Dayden is right and Obama will actually DO something for the Middle Class and appoint Elizabeth Warren as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

But that is only half the battle. If the House Financial Services Committee gets its way, part two of the attack dog strategy will be to take away the CFPB's power to be effective. If the CFPB has to be accountable to the House Financial Services Committee, it will be like the State’s AGs trying to get meaningful banking regulation in their states and then being overruled by Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). There is no way the CFPB is going to be able to regulate the banking bullies if the corrupt politicians on the HFSC have the power to tie its hands.

We have to keep on making a loud noise about this. Write/call our government officials, talk about it to your friends and families and keep it alive on the blogs. The mainstream media continues to be silent on this very important issue.

Karen Garcia said...

The way I am reading this, the ball is now in Obama's court. The Senate Republicans are making it plain they'll raise a stink about the agency itself, no matter if it's Warren or any one person running it. So Obama has the choice of either letting the whole bureau die or appointing Warren. The next Congressional recess is Memorial Day weekend, just a few more weeks away. I will definitely keep this story alive.

Kate Madison said...

I am returning to my former daily habit of writing nightly to Obama at the Big House ( I don't know if anybody of importance ever reads my emails, but I send a link and a lecture about something important I think he is neglecting. So...of course the subject of the moment is Elizabeth Warren and the CFPB.

I am sending the second paragraph of Valerie's Sardonicky comment today as my lecture for Barry tonight. It is right on and to the point. And I will say it is from a member of the activist progressive community who really would like to be able to support Obama in the 2012 election!

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

You are right, Kate. In the end, as disappointed and angry as I am at the man for his tepid leadership, I would really like for Obama to give me a good reason to vote for him in 2012.

Anonymous said...

Several of you should "hang your heads in shame" for giving your President and his "hand picked" AG a pass for not even investigating their friends, colleges, and most importantly contributors in the financial sector. The FBI is too busy dealing with the war on terror? Really! They only prosecute women, it's sexiest. Also really! Those comments were really weak today Ladies.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

Anonymous, YOU should hang your head in shame for not having the courage to tell us your name before throwing around sarcastic claims like we are giving the President and his AG a pass. What's with the hiding in the dark? Don't you have the courage to stand by your beliefs?

Do you even comprehend what you are reading on this blog? This blog is about exposing what is going on in Washington and trying to find ways of working together to stand up for what is right. No one is giving Obama a pass. But your team (I am assuming you are a Republican or Libertarian) is totally exploitive of the Middle Class, trying to suck the life blood out of a weakening victim. When is the last time you wrote to your Congress member or the President? Several of us do it on a regular basis.

People like me are agonizing over what is the best next step. Do we vote for Obama because the alternative is worse? Is the lesser of two evils still evil? Did the Naderites cost Gore the elections? If so, will voting for a third party candidate be throwing our vote to the enemy? Or will it finally break this corrupted two party system? We read and we keep informed and we try our best to reform our party and make it stand for something. What do you do to better Democracy other than shoot off careless remarks?

The only weak comment on this blog site today was yours.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I forgot to add my name and the comments were in the NYT not here. The NYT is where it needs be pointed out that no one could do more for his donors from the financial industry than Obama is currently doing to rase $1,000,000,000.00 (sure is a lot of "0"s) to keep doing same for the next 4 years. My personal beliefs are best laid out in a assay written a few years ago by Walter Mead. That said I believe that history shows that big government is corrupt government with out regard to who runs it.


Valerie said...

Sadly, Richard, both sides seem to be in the thrall of the banking industry. No doubt Obama and Geithner are being bought by the Financial Industry. But so are all those corrupt Congressional members on the House Finance Services Committee - all those Republicans trying to block the appointment of Elizabeth Warren and disempower the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. One of the reasons we progressives are so adamant that Obama appoint Warren and the get agency up and going is we want to show the country what a good regulatory agency can do. You seem like a reasonable person and, as I have said to Karen many times, I give you credit for entertaining points made by the other side. So why won't you give this agency a chance to prove itself?

No doubt the system is broken, but the alternative Republican scenario is to keep going down the wrong path and the Libertarian proposal is to throw the whole system away. As a reasonable person, I don't understand why you aren't looking at the flaws in the Libertarian argument - mainly, without government you will get anarchy. I am sure you have read the book Lord of the Flies. Without some rule of law, the bullies do whatever they want and basically terrorise the weaker members of society. How would you address that? Do you have a Libertarian model that has actually worked in another country? Or is it like Marxism, good in theory but totally lacking in practical application.

And funny that you were the anonymous commenter. I almost ended my comment with, "Why aren't you like Richard, who disagrees in a respectful manner whilst having the courage to sign his own comments?"

Anonymous said...

I am defenately not a libertarian or an Anarchist as usually defined. I believe in the rule of law. We don't currently have as much rule of law as we should. That is part of the problem.
I have actually read the writings of Ms. Warren and I don't have a problem with her or with her running her agency. That said I can't believe that those around the President (the guy from G.E. As an example) will like her policies very much.
Only time will tell if she can do as well as write, I don't think the President will support her to give her the chance.

I also am not for throwing the whole system away. As you stated the system is broken. There is the common ground we share. The thing that will fix it is where we disagree. Show me an example of large Socialist Central government working in a country of over 30 million people. Define "working" with several measurable parameters and we will talk about it.

I personally am pleased that the President has seen fit to continue a number of the Bush policies and is doing a better job of enforcing some of our laws than did Bush. His financial policies are a different mater, they are a disaster as are the policies of those around him.

My preferred form of civil society could be described as "Post Marx Socialism", where the state withers away and individuals are personally responsible. We are a long way from there, but that is the direction I think we should move. That opinion is not popular with any political group, Left or Right. But it is mine.


Valerie said...

Things are some of the things I am measuring a good quality of life by

1) public education
2) access to higher education ( reasonable costs)
3) access to health care for all - particularly catastrophic health care
4) job security
5) safety net if unemployed
6) access to care for the mentally ill
7) infrastructure
8) care for the elderly
9) old age pension
10) quality of food and water

I would say three countries, off the bat, that have a better political system and offer a better quality of life for their citizens than we have in the U.S. with strong "socialistic" centralised/Federal governments are Germany (80 million), Australia (25 million) and Canada (33 million). All are considered socialist by the Republicans. I would also include the U.S. in the 60’s and 70’s – before deregulation. All these countries have a heavily regulated banking industry, socialised medicine and a heavily regulated food industry. While Germany is struggling a little bit now, it is because they had to absorb an entire other country into their economy twenty years ago and have taken a hit by adopting the Euro. Nevertheless, the quality of life in Germany is still far better than what we have in the U.S.

I'm glad to hear you support Elizabeth Warren. Would you consider writing a letter or making a phone call to Obama or your Reps in Congress letting them know that you DO support what she is trying to do?

Anonymous said...

Answer me please the following question. The three countries you list as being better in the quality of life all have male suicide rates higher than the U.S. And in the 15 to 25 age group they are much higher. Based on the better quality of life why do you think that is?
would I write a letter recommending Elizabeth Warren? Based on what I know now about her, Yes.


Valerie said...


I didn't realise that these countries had such a high suicide rates. I admit it doesn't make a lot of sense if their quality of life and safety net is so good. One would expect them to have lower suicide rate. I know that people who have clinical depression have access to good psychotherapy and anti-depressants in all three countries. It is quite a paradox.

Where did you get your information? I could only find the World Health Organisation report but it was hard to compare the statistics because they were all from different years. The chart I saw, put Germany (48th) (2009) and Australia (45th)(2008) as having a lower suicide rates than the U.S.(39th)(2005) but again, the data was from all different years. BTW, Canada was 34th (2005).

Do you have any theories?


Anonymous said...

This is the 2003 list. It places Germany, Austria, and Canada above the U.S. With more suicides.

No, I just find it interesting. It's not what I would expect with better health Care and a better safety net. Most of the other major Socialist countries are higher too.


Metro Journalist said...

The more delays, the less likely that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will become an agency that will protect victims, let alone Elizabeth Warren running it. Unless there is a viable Repugnican presidential candidate, there will be no need for Obama to make it happen. Besides, Obama totally morphed into GWB II.