Edwards is not a bankster

Politicians should not be held to a different standard of justice than anyone else, but of all the various criminal enterprises operating in America from 2007-2008, I really don’t think John Edwards‘ infidelities via campaign cash would be as high a priority as, say, criminal fraud on Wall Street. But what do I know about our priorities?

…Adding, absolutely prosecute John Edwards…but go after the banksters too!

NYT Calls for National Servicing Standards

The New York Times’ editorial board:

For starters, various government guidelines on loan servicing would be replaced with tough national standards. Among the new rules, homeowners would be evaluated for loan modifications before any foreclosure — or foreclosure-related fee — is initiated. The bank analysis used to approve or reject modifications would be standardized and public, and failure by the bank to offer a modification when the analysis indicates one is warranted would be grounds for blocking any attempt to foreclose.

National servicing standards could succeed where antiforeclosure programs have failed, namely, in compelling banks to help clean up the mess they did so much to create.

In the Senate, Democrats Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Sherrod Brown of Ohio have introduced bills to establish standards. The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau can also impose servicing rules. The Obama administration should champion national standards, and Congress and regulators should act — soon.

Standardization and transparency are important pieces of what needs to get done. But this isn’t just about stopping foreclosures or encouraging modifications int he strict sense that the Times is pushing. It’s also about regulating mortgage servicers – making sure that fee pyramiding schemes are stopped, improving billing documentation for homeowners, and enforcing existing laws for mortgage servicing. Mike Konczal’s piece yesterday has a lot of detail about what servicing standards should look like.

Konczal on fixing mortgage servicing

Mike Konczal has a good, comprehensive piece in The American Prospect on how we need to go about fixing mortgage servicing and unraveling the foreclosure crisis. For those looking for a primer on the problem, Konczal’s is a good place to start:

Three elements are needed to reform this broken system. The first is an in-depth investigation of the mortgage-servicing industry’s abuses. The second is the creation of a proper system for the servicing of debt with enforceable consumer protections. The last is a more effective plan to limit foreclosures and get a floor under housing prices, using better and more comprehensive loan modifications.

The piece looks at ways to address these main issues. Overall I think Konczal pulls his punches a bit when it comes to the settlements floated out of the state attorneys general negotiations with banks, but this line about what the banks are asking for in a settlement is key:

The leaked settlement offer by the banks is nothing but a promise to do what they should have been doing all along. But whatever trust the largest banks may have had has been destroyed in the post-crash era, and any plan that has weak or nonexistent enforcement and penalties should be considered dead on arrival for progressives.

The banks’ proposal is a joke, as is anything that basically amounts to them following the laws and regulations they were already supposed to be following.

“One Day”

Matt Stoller, writing at Naked Capitalism:

This increasing rigidity of the global economic order is frightening, and dangerous. It is the consequence of the new normal, Spanish and Wisconsin-colored flames licking up at the system be damned. One day, these protests won’t be leaderless, rudderless, and directionless. Perhaps the popular energy on that date will be channeled through an electoral system, perhaps not. Perhaps figures like New York AG Eric Schneiderman represent a new generation of leaders bent on restructuring our cultural obligations into a social contract that is stable and somewhat just.

One day a chunk of the elites will break away from this consensus, as the system experiences a breakdown that is so severe it threatens the interests of a powerful constituency group. For now, we will be watching the embers.

I’m not sure why Stoller presumes that elites breaking away from consensus will be a catalyst for better channeling popular energy. I’d presume that such an outcome is possible, but certainly not necessary nor sufficient for producing “a social contract that is stable and somewhat just.”

Cannon Fodder

Digby responds to a long, interesting piece on the differences between how Republicans and Democrats maintain their political coalitions across time and legislative battles by Robert Cruickshank. Digby writes:

Cruikshank is making an appeal to progressives to apply the GOP coalition rules to themselves and stick together, even if the centrists continue to play their games.. And that’s certainly necessary advice. Warring amongst ourselves is about as destructive as it gets. But there needs to be an understanding of how progressives are being manipulated in the Party — and a plan to thwart it — or there is going to be some kind of crack-up eventually. You simply can’t have a working coalition in which a very large faction is constantly used as political cannon fodder. If the anger doesn’t kill you the disillusionment will. The old bipartisan way is dead for now and Democrats had better adjust to dealing fairly and equitably within its own coalition or they’re going to find that they don’t have one.

I think Digby is largely right, but I guess I would just question the extent to which there actually is a Democratic coalition any more. No doubt there is a party, run by neo-liberals and conservatives, and quite a large number of progressives and progressive groups associate with this party. But it’s hard to see the various non-establishment elements of the Democratic Party as anything other than cannon fodder and as a result, not really a part of the coalition in any sense than they are sometimes used as pawns by neo-liberals and conservatives in their quest to be Serious Adults. The question then becomes, does it make sense for the Democratic coalition to learn how to operate by taking turns or should the cannon fodder recognize that they don’t want to continue to be treated like political cannon fodder?

A willful desire to block the road to the future

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is giving a big speech today on the economy, the American Dream and labor’s independence from political parties. In it, he says:

From the beginning of this country, through our efforts and our ideas, working people have made the American Dream real. And what is that dream? It is the idea that if you work hard and play by the rules you will enjoy economic security and build a better future for your children. It is not that a few of us will be rich, but that all of us will be treated fairly, that we will look after each other, and that we will all have a share in the wealth we create together.

But this just isn’t true. Workers are being punished for playing by the rules, while banksters, mortgage servicers, robosigners, and Wall Street firms are making billions of dollars by breaking the rules with abandon. The great hoax is that our government – from federal regulators to state Attorneys General to the Department of Justice – has politely refused to do anything close to requiring Wall Street follow the law.

Trumka is overly optimistic about the health of the American Dream in America today, but much of the rest of his speech is spot on. I particularly liked this passage:

And not just meanness. Destructiveness. A willful desire to block the road to the future. How else can you explain governors of states with mass unemployment refusing to allow high-speed rail lines to be built in their states? How else can you explain these same governors’ plans to defund higher education, close schools and fire teachers, when we know that without an educated America, we have no future?

Here in Washington, the Republicans in Congress have defunded housing counselors and fuel aid for the poor, and they are blocking worker training and transportation infrastructure.

But the final outrage of these budgets is hidden in the fine print. In state after state and here in Washington, these so called fiscal hawks are actually doing almost nothing to cut the deficit. The federal budget embraced by House Republicans, for example, cuts $4.3 trillion in spending, but gives out $4.2 trillion in tax cuts that disproportionately benefit wealthy individuals and corporations. Florida is gutting aid for jobless workers and using the money saved to cut already-low business taxes. At the end of the day, our governments will be in no better fiscal shape than when we started – they are just being used as a pass-through to enrich the already rich – at a time when inequality stands at historic levels.

Think about the message these budgets send: Sacrifice is for the weak. The powerful and well-connected get tax cuts.

All these incredible events should be understood as part of a single challenge. It is not just a political challenge – it’s a moral challenge. Because these events signal a new and dangerous phase of a concerted effort to change the very nature of America – to turn this into an “I’ve got mine” nation and replace the land of liberty and justice for all with the land of the war of all against all.

It’s not even all against all. Instead what is being orchestrated is a war of the Other 98% versus the Other 98%, with the richest Americans safe and cozy and out of the line of fire.

The press has touted this speech as Trumka laying down a marker for the labor movement’s independence from either political party. To some extent he does this. But what’s much more interesting to me than the hard-to-believe claims of drawing hard lines against Democrats is Trumka’s analysis of the policies which are facilitating an escalating transfer of wealth from working people to the top 2%. That’s why this speech matters and it’s what will continue to be relevant beyond the 2012 election season.