Saturday, October 1, 2011

Buy one, get nineteen billion free

It's interesting to watch where Wall Street puts its money in the American political process. The number one recipient of funding from Wall Street is Scott Brown, the Republican senator who replaced Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts. Forbes called him "Wall Street's Favourite Congressman."

Scott Brown is the senator who has received the most campaign money from the venture capital industry. Scott Brown is number two among all U.S. senators in receiving money from private equity and investment firms. He's also number two in money from the securities and investment industry. His top campaign contributors are FMR Corp., Goldman Sachs, Mass Mutual Life Insurance and Bank of New York Mellon.

But what possible Return On Investment value can tens of millions of dollars to a single senator get you? Surprisingly good value. When the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform & Consumer Protection Act was going through, the vote in the Senate was on a knife-edge. It all depended on a handful of swing votes, including, you've guessed it, Scott Brown. Within the bill was a once-off bank levy, to help pay
for regulatory reform.

This was a levy, solely on the biggest financial firms, not to punish them or raise government revenues, but to pay for the new financial regulatory structures that Wall Street itself had made necessary and to clean up the mess of failing financial institutions.

"Fine," said Brown, "I'll vote for the bill, but drop the bank levy."

So they did.

Saving to Wall Street? Nineteen billion dollars.

Onto 2012 and the presidential election. That Wall Street's money is on Mitt Romney is no secret, nor that his previous day job was in private equity, turning a buck
 asset-stripping companies. But what will they get for their money? The number one thing they'll get from it is the repeal of the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory overhaul bill. All of it. All 2,000 pages. He describes it as 'burdensome' to banks. I'm sure it is. That was kinda the point. If you're going to put the American taxpayer on the hook for billions of dollars - and that's what happens every time there's a Wall Street clusterfuck - then it might be an idea to take the wind out of the crazier sails, know who's doing what and proscribing legally what they can't do.

So if a future President Romney has his way...Wall Street is regulated for a few years (2010 - 2012) and then we're back to the kind of pre-Glass-Steagall Act financial wild-westery that's guaranteed to deliver yet another massive financial meltdown sooner rather than later and Wall Street is guaranteed (as long as they remain too big to fail) that the US taxpayer picks up the tab.

It turns out that what money buys you in the American political process is more money.

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