FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Prospects for Real Financial Reform Remain Remote

by ANDREW COCKBURN

Anyone who believes that Goldman Sachs is made up of coldhearted calculating machines, with scant room for any human emotion apart from avarice, should have been monitoring the firm’s most recent global videoconference.   This is a quarterly event in which senior executives address the firm’s managing directors assembled at their various far-flung outposts around the planet.  These are normally sober events, but this time, so I am reliably informed, Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein was given a standing ovation by the hundred or so executives – “reportedly a first time for such emotional release in the reptile cage” reports one close observer of Goldman culture.

The fact that Goldman stock was rising — the firm was worth an extra $549 million by day’s end — even as Blankfein and various underlings were being grilled by Carl Levin and others on their misdeeds indicates how little the bank has to fear from the people’s wrath, muffled as it is by the administration and congress.  After all, the real threat of Blanche Lincoln’s killer provision on derivatives trading, lurking like a nuclear suitcase in the financial “reform” bill, is already rapidly going away.

As I reported last week, Lincoln introduced this provision, which effectively implements the “Volcker rule” – ballyhooed and then forgotten by Obama a while back – excluding the banks from their most profitable line of proprietary trading in derivatives — in a fit of pique at Tim Geithner.  Word in the lobbying community is that her lapse from normal subservience to Wall Street’s command was deeply gratifying to Pat McCarty, Chief Counsel to Lincoln’s Agriculture Committee.

McCarty has reportedly long chafed at crafting legislation implementing the bankers’ dictates, so it was with great pleasure that he, at Lincoln’s request, told the committee, as well as the lobbyists packing the room, that the bill would deprive derivatives traders of access federal bank insurance programs, especially all those nice bailout vehicles such as the Fed’s discount window, not to mention the deposit guarantee from the FDIC, thus effectively driving JP Morgan etc out of the business.

On the other hand  it is hardly possible that Lincoln, still less her fellow Democratic senators, have really decided to usher in the communist revolution by wiping out the banks’ major source of trading profits.  Nor will the White House or Treasury  permit this to happen.  We know this because New York Senator Kirsten Gilliband has been telling emissaries from Barclays Plc so, adding that it would never get through the senate anyway. This was very welcome news for the emissaries, conscious as they were that the top five Wall Street banks made $28 billion in profits from derivatives trading last year, and they rushed to pass on the good news to clients.
Lincoln’s populist lunge hasn’t done her much good in Arkansas, where the latest polls put “Bailout Blanche”  further behind her primary (May 18) and general election opponents than ever.

For a few days this week it looked as if the senate Democrats could afford to pose as the flails of Wall Street while the Republicans obligingly blocked debate on the reform bill.  Now that the Republicans have abandoned that strategy, we can assume that Blanche’s provision will be taken into a back room and quietly smothered in the interests of bipartisanship.

ANDREW COCKBURN is the co-producer of the feature documentary on the financial catastrophe American Casino.  He can be reached at amcockburn@gmail.com

WORDS THAT STICK

 

Andrew Cockburn is the Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine.  An Irishman, he has covered national security topics in this country for many years.  In addition to publishing numerous books, he co-produced the 1997 feature film The Peacemaker and the 2009 documentary on the financial crisis American Casino.  His latest book is Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins (Henry Holt).

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano
By Way of Prologue: On How We Arrived at the Watchtower and What We Saw from There
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix the ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
Aidan O'Brien
Fidel and Spain: A Tale of Right and Wrong
Carol Dansereau
Stop Groveling! How to Thwart Trump and Save the World
Kim Nicolini
Moonlight, The Movie
Evan Jones
Behind GE’s Takeover of Alstom Energy
James A Haught
White Evangelicals are Fading, Powerful, Baffling
Barbara Moroncini
Protests and Their Others
Joseph Natoli
The Winds at Their Backs
Cesar Chelala
Poverty is Not Only an Ignored Word
David Swanson
75 Years of Pearl Harbor Lies
Alex Jensen
The Great Deceleration
Nyla Ali Khan
When Faith is the Legacy of One’s Upbringing
Gilbert Mercier
Trump Win: Paradigm Shift or Status Quo?
Stephen Martin
From ‘Too Big to Fail’ to ‘Too Big to Lie’: the End Game of Corporatist Globalization.
Charles R. Larson
Review: Emma Jane Kirby’s “The Optician of Lampedusa”
David Yearsley
Haydn Seek With Hsu
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail