Final thoughts on The Shutdown That Almost Was

It’s still possible for the Senate to gum up the works, but it seems like our legislature has managed the almost unprecedented feat of accomplishing the most basic act of governance while only almost screwing it all up. And it only took a few big concessions to really rich people to Get The Job Done. Congrats everybody!

First, an apology:

I remain convinced that passing the so-called “CRomnibus” was the right thing to do, despite the fact that the campaign finance and Dodd-Frank provisions that were slipped into it are terrible policies. Another government shutdown would have really put us in “laugh to keep from crying” territory where Congress is concerned (if we’re not there already), and furloughing federal workers (or making them keep working for the promise that they’ll get paid again at some indeterminate point in the future) at the holidays is bad politics and just bad period. The media had already teed up its “DEMOCRATS SHUT DOWN GOVERNMENT JUST LIKE REPUBLICANS DID LAST TIME” narrative, so this was really a no-win scenario for the Democrats.

On that last point, Matthew Yglasias at Vox notes that a bunch of right wing types are equating Elizabeth Warren this year with Ted Cruz last year, and he also I think correctly notes why that’s a bogus comparison:

Here’s the difference. In 2013, Ted Cruz rallied Republicans behind the view that they should refuse to fund the government unless Obamacare was repealed. In 2014, Elizabeth Warren is attempting to rally Democrats behind the view that they should not agree to repeal a section of the Dodd-Frank bill as the price for funding the government. It is true that both Warren and Cruz defied the leaders of their parties. But the actual substance of the affair is reversed.

In 2013, Republicans demanded Obamacare repeal as ransom for funding the government. In 2014, Republicans are demanding partial rollback of Dodd-Frank as ransom for funding the government.

Because the rollback of Dodd-Frank isn’t as big as repealing the PPACA would have been, and because the White House didn’t care to fight the Dodd-Frank rollback, somehow the media has lost sight of the fact that it’s still the Republicans demanding concessions for the privilege of keeping the government open. That’s not to say that Democrats didn’t get some concessions for their troubles as well, though oddly they don’t seem to want to talk very much about them, but a lot of those were “concessions” in the sense that Republicans agreed to drop earlier demands, which aren’t really concessions.

Somebody should take note of the fact that Congress just passed a spending bill that continues the ongoing GOP attempt to defund the IRS, while simultaneously removing part of the firewall preventing big banks from using federally insured money to shoot craps in the derivative market and virtually eliminating restrictions on soft money political donations. It’s just nice to see Congress standing up for the little guy, by which I mean Michael Corbat, the CEO of Citigroup, whose lobbyists wrote the Dodd-Frank rollback language. This joke actually falls apart because Corbat is a massive dude who played offensive guard for Harvard and briefly entertained the thought of playing in the NFL, but I didn’t really know where else to go with this. I think “be tall” is part of the job description to run a major bank.

Somebody should also take note of the fact that it’s almost impossible to find anybody willing to publicly defend this Dodd-Frank change on the merits. Seriously, has anybody tried this? The very same Dodd-Frank change was passed by the House earlier this year, and back then there were some efforts to justify it, but not in any terms beyond boiler-plate bank talking points. Are we even going to keep pretending that Wall Street doesn’t own Congress, or have we decided to give up the charade? The argument that “Democrats have supported this provision in the past” isn’t a defense of the merits of the rule change, it’s just an acknowledgement that, you know, banks have a lot of money to throw around on Capitol Hill. And given that 2015 now looks like it will be the year when Dodd-Frank in general dies the death of a thousand cuts, we should probably be paying attention to this kind of thing.


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