Congress, which has long been so tied up in a partisan knot by right-wing extremists that it has been unable to move, suddenly sprang loose at the end of the year and put on a phenomenal show of acrobatic lawmaking.
In one big, bipartisan spending bill, our legislative gymnasts pulled off a breathtaking, flat-footed backflip for Wall Street, and then set a dizzying new height record for the amount of money deep-pocketed donors can give to the two major political parties. It was the best scratch-my-back performance you never saw. You and I didn’t see it – because it happened in secret.
The favor was huge – allowing Wall Street’s most reckless speculators to have their losses on risky derivative deals insured by us taxpayers. Yes, such losses were a central cause of the 2008 financial crash and subsequent unholy bank bailout, which lead to passage of the Dodd-Frank reform law, including a provision sparing taxpayers from covering future losses. But with one, compact, 85-line provision inserted deep inside the 1,600-page, trillion-dollar spending bill, Congress did a dazzling flip-flop on that regulation, putting us taxpayers back on the hook for the banksters’ high-risk speculation.
In this same spending bill, Congress also used its legislative athleticism to free rich donors (such as Wall Street bankers) from a limit of under $100,000 on the donation that any one of them can give to political parties.
In a spectacular gravity-defying stunt, lawmakers flung the limit on these donations to a record-setting 15 times higher than before. So now bankers who are grateful to either party for being able to make a killing on taxpayer-backed deals can give $1.5 million dollars each to the parties.
Perhaps you recall from your high school civics class that neat, one-page flow chart showing the perfectly logical, beautifully democratic process that Congress must go through to pass our laws.
What a bunch of kidders those chart makers were! To see how the sausage is really made, let’s take a look at that trillion-dollar budget bill that Congress squeezed out just before Christmas.
It was crammed with special corporate favors, such as: reinstating a Bush rule allowing mining giants to explode the tops off ancient Appalachian mountains and then bulldoze the rubble down into the valley below destroying pristine mountain streams; another letting long-haul trucking outfits require their drivers to be on the road more than 11 hours a day and up to 82 hours per week, filling our highways with highballing, sleep-deprived truckers; and cutting $60 billion from the Environmental Protection Agency, freeing up polluters to go unpunished for polluting.