I like Russ Feingold, but I think Mark Kleiman makes a good point about Feingold and the financial reform bill. Feingold was the only Democrat who voted with the Republicans against cloture. He did this because he didn’t think the bill was good enough, and I suspect I would agree with all of his objections.
However, Mark says, because Harry Reid had to compromise with some “moderates” so the bill could be voted on, it was watered down even more. Mark writes,
With the W.Va. seat still vacant, that meant that Reid needed Snow, Collins, and Scott Brown, as well as Ben Nelson. … The bill as passed exempts at least three major sources of consumer maltreatment in the financial market: car loans, payday loans, and check-cashing services. It omits the $19B bank tax to pay for bailouts. It has a very weak form of the â€œVolcker rule,â€ thus leaving the country exposed to future meltdowns. Those concessions were the price of those last four votes.
Mark goes on to say that Feingold suffers from “integrity narcissism,” which is a great phrase. It’s a syndrome I normally associate with Dennis Kucinich, but if the shoe fits …
Robert Reich says the bill is a mountain of paperwork but a molehill of reform. The bill can’t be a complete waste of paper, however, as the crew at Cafe Hayek is screaming bloody murder about it. And the usual suspects at Reason’s Hit Run, The Corner and Cato complain that the bill misses the root cause of the financial meltdown, which is poor people; or, in the words of Cato’s Mark Calabria, the “never-ending efforts to expand homeownership.” Yes, damn those who allowed themselves to be snookered by the sharks who were making easy money re-selling bad loans.
Kevin Drum gives us the good news and the bad news:
Here’s the good news: this record of progressive accomplishment officially makes Obama the most successful domestic Democratic president of the last 40 years. And here’s the bad news: this shoddy collection of centrist, watered down, corporatist sellout legislation was all it took to make Obama the most successful domestic Democratic president of the last 40 years. Take your pick.
Yeah, pretty much. Obama detractors on the Left don’t seem to notice that his initiatives, flawed as they are, are more progressive than anything seriously attempted by either the Carter or Clinton administrations. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t vent frustration and holler about centrist, watered down, corporatist sellout legislation, of course.
However, it does mean that we progressives are in a precarious position, because the popular support for what we’d like to do is soft. I think it’s soft because people don’t understand it, but it’s still soft. And it’s been so long since any genuinely progressive new legislation has been enacted, no one below the age of 50 has memory of it. Which is why integrity narcissism is an indulgence none of us can afford right now.
Sorta kinda related — today’s Paul Krugman column.