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Grow a Spine, Dems

by Miriam Axel-Lute on March 16, 2011

OK Dems (including you, Mr. President). In case you haven’t quite gotten it yet, which it seems you haven’t, here’s the message of Wisconsin: If you’ve got a spine, we’ve got your back.

The Tea Party ideologues, however, are willing to lie, violate the rules of open government and democracy, and pretend to negotiate, plant provocateurs, and take bribes in order to pass procorporate legislation that is not even supported by many of the Republicans and independents who voted for them thinking they were getting fiscal conservatives. Polls show if the election were held today, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker would go down in flames.

The progressive, and even moderate, base is energized right now, but if you want us to turn out for you in 2012 with 2008 enthusiasm rather than 2010 if-I-must, you better damn well start delivering. Take the Wisconsin 14 as your model. Yes, Wisconsin’s budget repair bill was snuck through illegally, but it may not stand, and I’d sure rather be those Dems than Walker and his cronies when the next election rolls around. Unions are forming, recalls are happening. The globally funded pizza deliveries were not going to the governor’s office.

I am a parent, and I am a big fan of compromise. But you don’t compromise with someone who is actually unwilling to give up anything meaningful, someone who is not at the table in good faith.

Take for example, this proposed $20 billion, 50-state attorneys general settlement with the banks over foreclosure fraud. While the banks are shedding crocodile tears about how horrible it is, let’s pause and review a crucial bit of info: Nearly all of what the banks are agreeing to do under the settlement in order to get immunity is, get this, follow existing laws or contractual obligations. You know, advanced things like don’t conduct fraudulent or abusive lending, foreclosure, and mortgage servicing.

Let me let you in on a little secret here. You shouldn’t have to promise not to sue someone in the future for violations of the law you know they’ve committed in order to get them to follow the law. It’s a law. They have to follow it. If they don’t, you take them to court. Giving up your right to do that is nearly always a bad idea.

But the administration is terrified of being the ones to shout that the emperor has no clothes. The banks are in serious trouble, even though now they are disguising it well enough to still pay themselves obscene amounts and talk of recovery. To quote Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism, “The fallacy of their [the government’s] thinking is that addressing and cleaning up this rot would lead to a financial crisis. . . . But these losses exist already. The fallacy lies in the authorities’ delusion that they are avoiding creating losses, when we are in fact talking about who should bear costs that already exist.” I have a vote for who should bear them.

Anyone who has owned an old house knows what happens if you put off dealing with rot. In the long run, you’re not doing anyone, except a few overly rich arrogant financiers, any favors by propping these guys up and papering over their criminality.

Go on the offensive. Make the case. For goodness sake put an attorney general from a state that has actually suffered badly from the foreclosure crisis in charge of the settlement proceedings, rather than the one from Iowa. Clear out the rot. Public opinion would be behind you.

P.S. Same with the budget. If you read the polls, while Americans want to cut the deficit, the only specific deficit reducing measures they support are things like cutting defense spending and taxing the rich. Note to those Americans: We need to tell this to more than pollsters. As Rep. Barney Frank told Shelterforce magazine in 2010: “The advocacy groups come in and say, ‘Can we have more money?’ but they never help me find the money. I don’t remember the last time an advocacy group said, ‘You should raise taxes on rich people. You should cut the military budget.’ ”

PPS: Same with family planning and women’s healthcare. Defend Planned Parenthood. By all means. Vociferously and unapologetically. It’s crucial. But also—and this goes out to PP and its citizen supporters too—don’t just defend. Where are the protests at the offices of the folks who made those fraudulent videos? Where are the liar, liar, pants on fire signs? Where are the bills introduced to kill funding for anyone who has ever participated in an entrapping video that was then edited to spread damaging lies about a community service? Slander cases?

It’s not too late. But sooner would be a lot better than later.