National Column: Tea partiers in Washington are 'business as usual'
They came, they saw, they conquered. This line pretty well sums up a little-reported but important story about the new tea partiers in the U.S. House of Representatives.
No sooner had they arrived than the corporate lobbying corps came to visit, saw what these supposed rebels were made of and quickly conquered them without a fight. The forces of big business needed only to lay out some campaign cash - and quicker than you can say, "Business as usual," the budding lawmakers snatched up the money and immediately began carrying the lobbyists' corporate agenda.
Check out the financial services subcommittee, which handles legislation affecting Wall Street bankers. Five tea partiers got coveted slots on this panel, and all five were suddenly showered with big donations from such financial lobbying interests as Goldman Sachs. Now, all five are sponsoring bills to undo parts of the recent reforms to reign in Wall Street excesses.
Steve Stivers of Ohio, for example, hauled in nearly $100,000 in just his first two months in office - 85 percent of it from the special interests his committee oversees. He insists that the cash he took from Goldman Sachs and others has nothing to do with his subsequent support of bills that Goldman is lobbying so strongly for. Stivers claims that his sole legislative focus is on jobs for Ohio's 15th district.
Really? Among the deform-the-reform bills that Steve is carrying is one to let Wall Street giants avoid disclosing the difference in what the CEO is paid and what average employees make. Another would exempt billionaire private equity hucksters from regulation. I can see that these bills are great job extenders for the barons of Wall Street, but how do either of them create a single job in his district?
This stuff does nothing but shelter the greed-headed banksters who wrecked our economy.
Is that what the tea party rebellion was all about?
While Wall Street is running roughshod all over Americans, it's good to know that the FBI, Justice Department and federal courts are all over the major crime cases that so dramatically affect millions of Americans. Like the seven-year prosecution and $6 million trial of baseball player Barry Bonds.
What a waste of time, tax dollars and prosecutorial credibility.
Meanwhile, not a single major player in Wall Street's mugging of our economy has even been charged, much less imprisoned. People were robbed of hundreds of billions of dollars - and millions of jobs, homes and businesses were lost - yet the banksters not only skated free, they're now collecting billions in bonus payments for their work.
A New York Times investigative report reveals that top Washington officials - Republican and Democrats - rushed to the crime scene at the start of the financial crash.
They rushed not to arrest anyone, but to stave off any serious investigations of the top Wall Streeters who'd obviously cooked their books, fraudulently awarded bonuses to themselves, cashed in on inside information and lied to regulators.
Barry Bonds might've been juiced up on steroids, but these guys were juiced up on hubris and greed, doing criminal damage to America.
Yet, the FBI was backed off, the Justice Department averted its eyes, and bank regulators failed to build criminal cases. Why? Because top politicos, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama, were convinced by their Wall Street confidants that prosecutions would make big investors jittery and endanger the markets.
A couple of weeks after Japan's nuclear meltdown began, a photograph ran worldwide showing a trio of the nuclear plant's top corporate executives. They were at the hospital bedside of a victim of radiation poisoning, bowing deeply in apology.
That's the picture of Wall Street executives that I want to see.