Is the Financial Regulation Bill "Socialist"? Don't Make the Socialists Laugh

Now that Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown has assured that there
will be at least one Republican vote in the Senate for the conference
committee report on the financial regulatory reform bill -- the
measure's final congressional test -- it will be harder for Republican
legislators to claim the proposal offers more evidence of the forward
march of socialism in America.

But only a little harder.

Now that Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown has assured that there
will be at least one Republican vote in the Senate for the conference
committee report on the financial regulatory reform bill -- the
measure's final congressional test -- it will be harder for Republican
legislators to claim the proposal offers more evidence of the forward
march of socialism in America.

But only a little harder.

Republican senators remain pretty much united in opposition to the
financial regulatory reform legislation, which has passed the House in
final form but still needs an O.K. from the upper chamber of the
Congress.

Why are so many GOP senators so very determined to block the bill,
which cannot be debated unless 60 senators senators support a
cloture vote?

What's the problem?

Republicans say that it is not that they oppose
regulating Wall Street and big banks. Rather, the argument goes, they
are afraid of big government -- of the "socialist" sort that might
actually try to accomplish something useful, as opposed to big
government of the Dick Cheney bloated defense budgets and needless wars
sort.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch
McConnell
says his caucus is fighting "to prevent the Democrats
from doing from the financial services industry what they just did to
the health care of this country."

Once again, the conservative chirp goes, a modest measure must be
blocked because it would put the country on the slippery slope to
socialism.

South Carolina Republican Jim DeMint, the Senate watchdog for against
all things social, is denouncing the bill as a "massive, ill-advised
piece of legislation" that would make it harder for kids to get braces. Seriously.

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann summed things up when she outlined the
"case" -- alright, maybe the better word is "rant" -- for opposing
basic consumer protections and a few minor moves aimed to avoiding more
meltdowns.

"This is breathtaking in the level of power that government will have
over our lives when it comes to credit," Bachmann said of the reform
bill. "It gives government the authority to decide, for instance, how
much a bank teller in Peoria, Illinois, will be making going forward
because a pay czar will decide what anyone in banking will be able to
make."

Never mind that socialists fought against czars.

It still sounds Soviety.

And never mind that DeMint and Bachmann are wrong, Kids will still be
able to get braces, banks in Peoria will still pay tellers less than
they should and the reform legislation makes no mention of czars.
Indeed, to the extent that there is attention to what banks and brokers
pay employees, the focus is on the CEOs that earn $1,000 an hour, not
tellers who are hoping to get to $10 an hour.

McConnell, DeMint and their fellow partisans need not worry.

Legislation that does neither breaks up 'too big to fail' Wall Street
banks or restore the safeguards established after the Great Depression
separating Main Street banks from big Wall Street firms does not even
meet the standard of effective regulation.

It's certainly not socialism.

Who says? The Socialists.

Nicholas Nix, who is
running for a U.S. House seat in Texas, offers an outline of real
reform: "I believe in STRONG regulation on any business that can
completely destroy this country economically. I also believe in the
repeal of the 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act that helped banks
merge with Insurance companies, and securities companies. NEVER
AGAIN should the U.S. have a proverbial gun pointed to its head and
demanded to pay, or die (economically), by Big Business. NEVER AGAIN,
should we shell out another dollar to a business that does not know how
to hold onto their own dollars!"

That, needless to say, is much, much more than has been proposed in
the compromised "reform" bill now being considered by the Senate.

But Socialists go much, much further in their affirmative arguments
for real reform.

Dan La Botz, who is running the Senate in Ohio as a proud "Buckeye Socialist," argues that
"none of the problems facing this country can be dealt with unless we
end the domination of banks, insurance companies and multinational
corporations over both major parties and over our political system."

So what's the Socialist fix for the banking issues that the Senate is
wrestling with -- and for the broader financial crisis?

La Botz's platform declares: "Not a penny more for the banks and the
bankers! Take over the banks."

To wit:

  • The U.S. government should nationalize the banks
    creating something like a U.S. Credit Union with offices throughout the
    country providing loans to small businesses, homeowners, and
    cooperatives.
  • Low interest loans should be advanced to working people
    for home improvements, for the purchase of large appliances, and for
    vacations.

  • Educational loans would not be necessary because we
    would tax corporations to pay for free education.
  • The U.S. Credit Union should deny credit to speculators
    and gamblers in the markets.

Now, that actually does sound like the sort of social-democratic
approach that American Socialists have proposed -- not just in Ohio but
in other states where they are running as alternatives to the Democrats
and the Republicans.

And that, of course, is the point: Socialism is not some vague,
ill-defined concept. It's a well established approach to economic and
social issues. Americans can agree of disagree with that approach -- and
they do -- but it is absurd to suggest that a little bit of regulation
for Wall Street and the big banks amounts to a dramatic abandonment of
capitalism.

Almost as absurd as trying to scare people into thinking that putting
an end to credit-card and loan abuses will deny braces to kids or pay
to bank tellers.