It’s just a guess but I’d bet Blanche Lincoln, chair of the Senate’s Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, would be a tough poker player.
The reason is simple: Despite a Congressional record as clean as a hound’s tooth, Lincoln has never lost an election, never been within a country mile of scandal and rarely loses policy fights– handicappers still bet against her and, almost always, lose their bets.
The latest losers were Big Labor and Big “D” Democrats who spent $10 million in a nasty Arkansas primary fight this spring to make her a lame duck. Lincoln, the daughter of a rice and cotton farmer, gave as good as she got and beat her challenger in a June 8 run-off.
She’ll stand for her third term as an Arkansas’ senator this November. Next up are the Bailout Banksters and the members of Congress they keep in their hip pockets. They hope to dump both Lincoln and her tough derivatives’ amendment in a financial reform bill now being pieced together by a house-senate conference committee.
They have billions of reasons to try. The in-the-dark derivative market, created and run by giant Wall Street banks, was the grenade that nearly blew up the world’s economy Oct. 2008. That unregulated, massive mess required hundreds of billions of dollars of your money to bail out the banks’ casino-like trading.
Today, despite 18 months’ of chest-beating over how they’d soon kick some serious banker backside, Congress has done nothing. Almost 97 percent of all swaps — paper bets similar to commodity futures — continue to be traded by five banks: Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase.
Lincoln’s amendment doesn’t end the lucrative trading. It does, however, force it onto a “transparent” market so everyone knows who’s trading what and at what price. Also, it would give regulators an unrestricted view of it for the first time and force derivative-trading banks to do so through an arm’s-length subsidiary so the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (and you and I) aren’t left holding the banks’ empty bags again.
Wall Street, as greedy as it is forgetful, thinks Lincoln’s ideas unnecessary and harmful to its credit-creation efforts. It has sent armies of lobbyists into every closet of the Capitol to find her and her allies to squash ’em and her “716” provisions, the page in the draft legislation where all are found.
People and power have no limits in this fight.
“Since 2009,” noted OpenSecrets.org, a Washington, D.C. non-partisan watchdog of money and influence in politics, June 3, “… the (financial services sector) has employed at least 73 former members of Congress” to gut the reform legislation.
Some these former public servants, according to OpenSecrets, now shamelessly serving themselves while weakening bank accountability, include former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., former Senate Majority Leaders Bob Dole, R-Kan., and Trent Lott, R-Mo., and two former House Majority Leaders, Dick Armey, R-Texas, and Dick Gephardt, D-Mo.
And yet, Lincoln’s reforms still stand as the house-senate conference convenes to marry each chamber’s bill into one. In fact, her primary victory two weeks ago boosts the odds that most, if not all, will be in the final bill. But it’s not because our Washington hired hands might, like blind sows, find an acorn. No, it’s because the politics of derivative reform are right: If Lincoln succeeds, she’s a champion of the little guy and enemy of Big Bad Banksters; if she loses she still fought for the little guy but the Bad, Bad Banksters beat her up.
Gee, even the dimmest bulb on Capitol Hill can do that math. Will they? This week will tell the tale but I wouldn’t bet against Blanche.