Mountain Sun

Mountain Sun

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Barney Frank Blames Occupy Wall Street

Did you see this segment on Rachel Maddow last night?  Check it out.

I like Barney Frank, and I'm glad he said what he did. But his complaint that Occupy Wall Street (twitter feed #OWS) should have been in the trenches in 2009, and that OWS really needs to think about voting more Democrats into office in 2012 seems to overlook an important historical fact. In 2008 voters gave the Democrats commanding majorities in both houses of Congress, and they delivered Barack Obama to the White House. In 2009, Democrats assumed the opportunity, the power, and the mandate to deliver change. They overwhelmingly failed to do so.

Instead, in 2009 Frank's Democratic Party began launching a series of policy moves to extend and expand disastrous US foreign military actions along with a series of corporate-friendly domestic policies in the finance, health-care and energy sectors. Most recently, Obama has produced disastrous job-killing federal austerity budget cuts and the largest "free trade" deals since NAFTA (with three pacts to be signed by him this coming Friday). He has alienated his own environmental base to the point of having their leadership arrested at the gates of the White House, and he has overseen the expansion of constitutional infringements and government secrecy, in some cases exceeding those of the Bush era up to and including the unlawful assassination of multiple US citizens without an iota of due legal process. He has done precious little to halt a tsunami of home foreclosures sweeping the country (an estimated 800,000 foreclosures this year alone), many of them clearly involving criminal fraud by banks. Instead of forcefully protecting citizens in their troubled homes, Obama has mouthed vague rhetorical sympathies while protecting his benefactors in the megabanks.

It has been Obama's behavior, and that of the Democratic-led Congress, that caused OWS to reject party affiliation. They've been burned. In spite of being part of what should be a natural Democratic constituency, it appears that #OWS believes that neither party will serve as an effective vehicle going forward. And with this recent Democratic history fresh on our collective memory, who on earth would blame OWS for coming to this painful conclusion? Nobody, aside from Barney Frank.

I do not know what the Occupy Phenomenon is going to evolve into, or indeed if it will evolve at all. Regardless of what the future holds, they have already succeeded--they have put street-level civil action: protest, occupation, civil disobedience, back on the national political map. In my opinion, that achievement and future iterations of it may well prove more important and constructive than any electoral efforts to seat "more and better Democrats".

UPDATE (10/19/11)

Former Reagan Administration bank regulator William Black was interviewed today by Amy Goodman for the news program Democracy Now. In the interview Black (who had extensive experience with banking fraud during the Savings and Loan debacle of the 1980s) details some of the things President Obama could have done back in 2009 or 2010 (the period Frank alludes to above) to bring the fraudulent practices underlying the US banking crisis under some form of control. Obama's failure to take any regulatory action cannot be blamed on citizen apathy (Frank's complaint) or for that matter Republican resistance, as the measures discussed here by Black did not require congressional action of any kind. Black's condemnation of Obama's actions (or non-actions, in this case) illustrate why many Americans are likely to have much greater sympathy for the OWS protesters than they will for Democratic officeholders who have largely failed to act.

UPDATE (10/20/11)

A related headline from yesterday's Washington Post describes how Obama continues to raise campaign funding from the financial sector very successfully: "Obama still flush with cash from financial sector despite frosty relations"

Despite frosty relations with the titans of Wall Street, President Obama has still managed to raise far more money this year from the financial and banking sector than Mitt Romney or any other Republican presidential candidate, according to new fundraising data. 
One top banking executive who raises money for Obama, discussing fundraising efforts on the condition of anonymity, said reports of disaffection with the president “are exaggerated and overblown.” He said a strong contingent of financiers in New York, Chicago and California remains supportive of Obama and his economic policies, even as some have turned on him. But, this donor added, “it probably helps from a political perspective if he’s not seen as a Wall Street guy.”

Yes, it's a delicate charade that must be maintained by President Obama--consuming more "frosty" Wall Street cash than any of his GOP competitors, while simultaneously attempting to harness the electoral energy of the anti-Wall Street protesters camped just outside.

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