Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Real Legacy of the ‘Reagan Revolution’

By Robert Scheer

McCain campaign co-chair Phil Gramm is right: We have “become a nation of whiners.” But who is whining more than the bankers that former Sen. Gramm’s financial deregulation legislation benefited? The very bankers who now expect a government bailout, such as those at UBS Investment Bank, where Gramm found lucrative employment.

As chair of the powerful Senate Banking Committee, Gramm engineered passage of legislation that effectively ended the major regulatory restraints applied to the financial industry in response to the Great Depression. The purpose of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act—co-authored by Gramm, passed in 1999 by a Republican-controlled Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton—was to liberate the banks, stockbrokers and insurance companies from restraints imposed on their activities more than seven decades ago. It was legislation that the financial community, which contributed heavily to Gramm’s campaigns in the previous five years, desperately wanted and obviously has abused. So why now bail these institutions out?

Hows about some “tough love” for those bankers suddenly in trouble? You know, the sink-or-swim approach of “welfare reform” that Gramm and Clinton applied to poor people to end their addiction to government handouts. Or, perhaps a heavy dose of “faith-based” personal responsibility initiatives to get those knaves who messed up our entire housing market back on the straight and narrow. Sounds ridiculous I know, because nothing but the bleeding-heart, big-government, throw-money-at-the-problem approach will do when it comes to salvaging corrupt corporations.

That is the real legacy of what has been ballyhooed as the “Reagan Revolution,” which Clinton went along with, but which found its full flowering in the administration of George W. Bush. The bookends of the Bush years are the Enron debacle and the federal bailout of bankers drunk on their own greed. And no two people in this country are more responsible for enabling this sordid behavior than the power couple Phil and Wendy Gramm...[Open in new window]


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