Farm and Food File: Leader-sheep ‘reform’ rings hollow

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When Chairman Frank Lucas gaveled the full House Ag Committee to order Oct. 12, ranchers, farmers and other aggies who depend on commodity futures markets to price their crops, livestock and dreams might have thought the hearing would center on what its title suggested: “To Review Legislative Proposals Amending Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.”

The hearing would do no such thing.

About face

Two days before, on Oct. 10, the committee’s majority staff circulated a seven-page memo to all members that outlined seven legislative proposals to amend the law designed to rein in American equity and futures markets’ excess that nearly derailed the global economy in 2008. (Read the memo at www.farmandfoodfile.com.)

Each of the seven proposals, though, sported two faces.

The first was really a mask for the second: a legitimate question or concern about an some aspect of Dodd-Frank’s trading rules. The second was the real deal: a primer on how to kill Dodd-Frank by sticking it with a thousand little pins — amendments, hearings, studies, cost-benefit analysis, lawsuits — and letting it slowly bleed to an irrelevant death. No muss, no fuss, no fingerprints.

And, of course, no reform and no protection against the swindlers, crooks and banksters who skinned every American in 2008.

Leader-sheep

That was easily confirmed by the so-called “Witness List,” experts called to “testify” in the Oct. 12 “hearing.” They were bleating sheep in Congress’s cash-green, astro-turf pasture, invited to endorse the majority’s biases and fertilize its false choices.

The Oct. 10 memo provides the proof. For example, the memo goes into great detail over the role of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in setting margin requirements for “swaps dealers and major swap participants that are not banks.”

It then notes that the majority’s amendment “HR 2682 clarifies congressional intent by providing explicit exemption from margin requirements for transactions involving end-users that qualify for the end-users clearing exemption.”

How do we know that?

By who will be coming to explain it, says the memo; Brenda Boultwood speaking on behalf of something called “The Coalition for Derivatives End-Users.”

If you think that Boultwood, an end-user speaking for “The Coalition for End-Users” on an amendment to exempt “margin requirements for transactions involving end-users,” might favor such an exemption, well, you’re catching on to how the Big Boys win the regulatory game. They simply fix the rules before the game even starts. But let’s not pick on Ms. End-User.

Other witnesses invited to speak in favor of Committee amendments to weaken, rewrite or simply junk Dodd-Frank language were such well-known aggies as Chris Giancarlo, who testified for the Wholesale Markets Brokers Association Americas; Bela Sanevich, representing the American Benefits Council, and Douglass Williams, the prez and CEO of Atlantic Capital Bank.

Not invited

And who represented you or spoke in favor of the Dodd-Frank reforms? Come on, you know the answer to that one.

Maybe the best proof of these phony-we’re-here-to-help hearings comes courtesy of the always bumping gums of House Ag Chair Frank Lucas.

In his opening statement Lucas used jobs as the pretense to plow up large parts of Dodd-Frank and reseed it as the fertile playground of the banksters.

“It is my hope,” Lucas gravely intoned, “that the agencies will listen to the comments (and)… feedback they’ve gotten from market participants and from Congress. But with unemployment stuck at 9 percent, I’m not willing to just stand by and keep my fingers crossed that the flaws in the proposed rules will be fixed.”

The really worrisome part of that perfect nonsense isn’t that Lucas and the other water carriers on the committee sponsored this loophole festival. No, the real worry is that they actually believe markets regulate themselves.
How’d that work out in 2008?

(The Farm and Food File is published weekly in more than 70 newspapers in North America. Contact Alan Guebert at www.farmandfoodfile.com.)

© 2011 ag comm

About the Author

Alan Guebert was raised on an 800-acre, 100-cow southern Illinois dairy farm. After graduation from the University of Illinois in 1980, he served as a writer and editor at Professional Farmers of America, Successful Farming magazine and Farm Journal magazine. His syndicated agricultural column, The Farm and Food File, began in June, 1993, and now appears weekly in more than 70 publications throughout the U.S. and Canada. He and spouse Catherine, a social worker, have two adult children. farmandfoodfile.com More Stories by Alan Guebert

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