Economy

Senate Bank Reform Bill One Vote Short

Sheriff badgeThe fate of the Wall Street reform bill is up in the air after the death of Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia. The bill is a single confirmed vote short of the 60 votes needed to get past a threatened filibuster by Senate Republicans. From day one, the Bankster team has supported the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and that is still one of the strongest pieces of the bill. It is a great time to send off the last emails to Senators telling them to put a new cop on the block in the form of a CFPB.

Tell Us What You Think of the Bill

We want to hear from you about what you think of the bill, and what grade you would give it if you were a kindergarten teacher grading Congress on its performance. Conceptually, the bill breaks down into three main parts.

Wall Street Reform Bill Yields Big Win for Little Countries

You know that Wall Street reform bill pending in the Senate? Some last minute insertions add up to a surprisingly big win for the developing world.

Oil Companies Required to Detail the Dough Paid to Foreign Governments

First, kudos to Senators Dick Lugar (R-Indiana) and Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) for inserting strong provisions that require extractive companies (oil, natural gas, etc.) to detail in their annual Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings the payments they make to foreign governments. One would think that oil-rich and mineral-rich countries would be, well, rich. Big international firms move in to extract these resources and pay royalties, fees, taxes, bonuses and other monies to national governments. Unfortunately, too frequently this money is put to work lining the pockets of dictators and warlords, rather than building schools or health clinics.

Wall Street Reform Bill Could Be a Big Win for the Farm Belt

Everyone in America remembers the summer of 2008 when gas prices rose to over $4.00 a gallon. The puzzling price spike caused hardship for many Americans, but it had a disproportionate impact on farmers given that energy costs are one of farmers' biggest costs of doing business. A repeat of this scenario not only threatens consumer pocketbooks and farm livelihoods, but could be a serious setback to an already slow economic recovery.

That possibility just became much more remote due to some last-minute maneuvers involving the Wall Street reform bill slated to be voted on in Congress this week. The derivatives chapter of the bill specifically cracks down on the energy and food commodity speculation that elevates the cost of farming and socks it to consumers.

Derivatives Reform Suffers Midnight Mangling

hatchet"The last day was a long one in the House-Senate conference committee on financial reform. The conferees had been at it since 9:00 a.m. and were rumpled and weary. Big bank lobbyists packed the conference room and trailed out into the hallways. As the clocked ticked into the wee hours, the chances for meaningful financial reform dimmed. At issue was the strong and controversial crack-down on derivatives trading authored by Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas).

Swap 'Till You Drop

As the fight on Capitol Hill for financial reform enters its final stages, it is worth asking what will be done to protect states and localities from the Wall Street con. On Thursday, the House-Senate conference committee on financial reform will take up the controversial section of the bill dealing with derivatives reform. Not a local issue right? Wrong. Service Employees International Union's (SEIU) Big Banks campaign has uncovered about 71 states and localities which have bought into dangerous derivatives and swaps deals to finance local priorities.

This information was not easy to uncover, and the total number of munis holding these little ticking time bombs is not known. For the big banks, these deals are off book and off record, and politicians of course don't like to brag about getting swindled. It is only when these deal explode and there is a huge shortfall that the public begins to be aware. Sometimes even that is not enough, and some districts are in denial about the problems posed by their investment portfolio.

Do You Like to Whip It?

WhipREP The long awaited House-Senate Financial Reform Conference Committee got underway this week. Thanks to the efforts of Public Citizen, Campaign for America's Future, CMD and others, these committee meetings will be live on C-Span 3, and all amendments will be made available in advance. At BanksterUSA we are working hard to make sure that the strong derivatives language currently in the Senate version of the bill is not weakened (Sec. 716 authored by Senator Blanche Lincoln, D-Arkansas). We are keeping a whip count on the conferees and we could use your help! A whip count helps us pool intelligence on what the members are saying to their constituents. If you make a call you can post a comment to our whip list letting us know what you heard. It is grassroots activism at its best.

Take Action in the Final Days of Bank Reform Fight

boxing gloves moneyReckless swaps and derivatives trading played a critical role in the financial crisis, inflating the domestic housing bubble and turning it into a global economic catastrophe. As the House and Senate conference committee begins final work on the financial services reform bill, it is critically important that we wall off the casino from the taxpayer guarantee. If big banks want to gamble they need to do so with their own money. Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz makes the case for strong provisions in the Senate derivatives chapter plainly: "If [Congress] fails to pass strict oversight of dangerous over-the-counter derivatives and swaps the U.S. economy will continue to be vulnerable to significant financial risk."

To urge the House and Senate conferees to take action visit BanksterUSA.

Bank Reform Bait and Switch

Shell gameWhen the Senate bank reform legislation passed in May, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said it sent the message to Wall Street that they can no longer "recklessly gamble away other people's money." The bill told Main Street, "you no longer have to fear that your savings, your retirement or your home are at the mercy of greedy gamblers in big banks. And it says to them, 'never again will you be asked to bail out those big banks when they lose their risky bets,' " according to Reid.

Reid was correct. The bill the Senate passed did protect the taxpayers from reckless gambling by the big banks, largely due to the last-minute inclusion of strong derivatives reforms authored by Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas). So why is it that Senate and House leadership are now busy behind these scenes trying to kill the best provisions in their own banking reform legislation?

CMD Director Lisa Graves to Address America’s Future Now!

Lisa GravesCMD Executive Director Lisa GravesAmerica's Future Now! -- the biggest progressive conference of the year organized by Campaign for America’s Future -- convenes June 7-9 in Washington, DC. Join Lisa Graves, Mary Bottari, and Dave Johnson from the Center for Media and Democracy as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Alan Grayson, Arianna Huffington, Markos Moulitsas, Van Jones, Gov. Howard Dean, Rep. Donna Edwards, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Richard Trumka, Andy Stern, Bob Herbert, Juan Cole, Digby, Deepak Bhargava, James Rucker, Drew Westen, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Robert Kuttner, Lizz Winstead and thousands more.

Progressives must lead to make sure 2010 is not the year of the Tea Party. Jobs, financial reform, clean energy, clean elections, fair workplaces, civil liberties, health care and human rights are at all stake. Let's show Washington that progressives now how to fight!

The Final Fight: No More Gambling with Taxpayer Money

casino moneyEven though the bank reform bill working its way through Congress is far from perfect, there are some strong provisions well worth fighting for as the bill moves to a House-Senate conference committee.

Two recent articles illustrate the pros and cons of this behemoth bill. New York Times reporter Gretchen Morgenson, does a great job reminding us that the original Glass-Steagall legislation was only 34 pages long and it was key to keeping our financial system stable for 60 years. She points out that the two bills that the Senate and the House have now passed are a whopping 3,000 pages combined:

Yet despite all that verbiage, there are flaws in both bills that would let Wall Street continue devising financial black boxes that have the potential to go nuclear. And even if the best of both bills becomes law, investors, taxpayers and the economy will remain vulnerable to banking crises.

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