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

 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
September 4-6, 2015
Vijay Prashad
Regime Change Refugees: On the Shores of Europe
Lawrence Ware
No Refuge: the Specter of White Supremacy Still Haunts Black America
Paul Street
Bi-Polar Disorder: Obama’s Bait-and-Switch Environmental Politics
Kali Akuno
Until We Win: Black Labor and Liberation in the Disposable Era
Arun Gupta
Field Notes to Life During the Apocalypse
Steve Hendricks
Come Again? Second Thoughts on My Ashley Madison Affair
Paul Craig Roberts
Whither the Economy?
Ron Jacobs
Bernie Sanders’ Vision: As Myopic as Every Other Candidate or Not?
Rob Urie
Capitalism and Crisis
Jeffrey St. Clair
Arkansas Bloodsuckers: the Clintons, Prisoners and the Blood Trade
Richard W. Behan
Republican Fail, Advantage Sanders: the Indefensible Budget for Defense
Ted Rall
Call It By Its Name: Censorship
Susan Babbitt
“Swarms” Entering the UK? What We Can Still Learn About the Migrant Crisis From Che Guevara
Andrew Levine
Compassionate Conservatism: a Reconsideration and an Appreciation
John Wight
Adrift Without Sanctuary: a Sick and Twisted Morality
Binoy Kampmark
Sieges in an Age of Austerity: Monitoring Julian Assange
Colin Todhunter
Europe’s Refugee Crisis and the Depraved Morality of David Cameron
JP Sottile
Chinese Military Parade Freak-Out
Kathleen Wallace
The Child Has a Name, They All Do
David Rosen
Why So Few Riots?
Norm Kent
The Rent Boy Raid: Homeland Security Should Monitor Our Borders Not Our Bedrooms
Michael Welton
Canada’s Arrogant Autocrat: the Rogue Politics of Stephen Harper
Ramzy Baroud
Palestine’s Crisis of Leadership: Did Abbas Destroy Palestinian Democracy?
Jim Connolly
Sniping at the Sandernistas: Left Perfectionism in the Belly of the Beast
Pepe Escobar
Say Hello to China’s New Toys
Sylvia C. Frain
Tiny Guam, Huge US Marine Base Expansions
Pete Dolack
Turning National Parks into Corporate Profit Centers
Ann Garrison
Africa’s Problem From Hell: Samantha Power
Dan Glazebrook
British Home Secretary Theresa May: Savior or Slaughterer of Black People?
Christopher Brauchli
Poor, Poor, Pitiful Citigroup
Norman Pollack
Paradigm of a Fascist Mindset: Nicholas Burns on Iran
Barry Lando
Standing at the Bar of History: Could the i-Phone Really Have Prevented the Holocaust?
Linn Washington Jr.
Critics of BlackLivesMatter# Practice Defiant Denial
Roger Annis
Canada’s Web of Lies Over Syrian Refugee Crisis
Chris Zinda
Constitutional Crisis in the Heart of Dixie
Rannie Amiri
Everything Stinks: Beirut Protests and Garbage Politics
Graham Peebles
Criminalizing Refugees
Missy Comley Beattie
In Order To Breathe
James McEnteer
Blast From the Past in Buenos Aires
Patrick Higgins
A Response to the “Cruise Missile Left”
Tom H. Hastings
Too Broke to Pay Attention
Edward Leer
Love, Betrayal, and Donuts
Louis Proyect
Migrating Through Hell: Quemada-Diez’s “La Jaula de Oro”
Charles R. Larson
Class and Colonialism in British Cairo
David Yearsley
Michael Sarin: Drumming Like Summer Fireworks Over a Choppy Lake