East Side Sorry
BERNSTEIN: Thatcher! That man was the biggest darn fool I ever met.
THOMPSON: He made an awful lot of money.
BERNSTEIN: It's no trick to make an awful lot of money if all you want is to make a lot of money.
---From CITIZEN KANE
The proof of the intellectual bankruptcy of Wall Street is their inability to learn. Rescued in the thirties from the depths of their own self-created degradation, they spent the next decade cursing the President who’d rescued them, and possibly capitalism itself, as “that man in the White House.”
What Wall Street cursed FDR for was his temerity in insisting upon setting up some rules to ensure that Wall Street’s man-made disaster would never occur again, and that the third-party victims of their depravity were allowed the basic sustenance necessary for survival. The rules Wall Street so objected to save them from disaster for more than a half century, until they were rendered obsolete by new technology and more advanced and clever forms of self-destructive avarice.
But back in the 30s, Wall Street sneered. Told by Wall Street Brahmins that that things would get better in the long run without such measures, Roosevelt advisor Harry Hopkins snapped back, “People don’t eat in the long run.”
Yes, there has always been an “enlightened” group of Wall Street Democrats, who accepted regulation and remediation, usually while trying to dilute both.
I may sneer, but we really do owe them.
At their best, they kept Democrats from overdosing on unworkable populist fantasies, while helping Wall Street swallow some bitter but necessary medicine. In exchange for accepting some unpleasant realities, and occasionally agreeing to some unspeakable favors, the Capitol Hill friends of the Wall Street Democrats were ensured of a continuing flow of funding.
And for all that, the Wall Street Democrats usually earned the scorn of both sides (OK, that, and a few million in bonuses).
But lately, the Wall Street Democrats seem to have abandoned this sometimes cynical, but usually useful pragmatism.
In Congress, the personifications of Wall Street enlightenment have been New York’s senior US Senator, Chuck Schumer, and East Side Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. While pretending to populism on the stump, these solons have always carried Wall Street’s water in the backrooms, and have often been the ones to hand Wall Street the bad news of “only this much and no more.”
Perhaps emblematic of a new trend, some Wall Street Democrats now seem intent upon killing these messengers and those close to them.As I‘ve noted before, Carolyn Maloney, whose late husband was a multi millionaire investment banker with Republican leanings (who died on a Himalayan mountain top in the company of his own personal Sherpa), has never been eager to offend those who’ve paid her tab.
In 1993, freshman Maloney deserted Bill Clinton in his hard-fought effort to pass his first, deficit-busting budget, which included a tax increase. Arguably, it was this bill that lead to the Clinton triumph of a balanced budget and eight years of prosperity. It also arguably led to the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994.
Thank to Maloney’s election, the Republican in the House most likely to support the bill, S. William Green, was now out of office. No other Republican support was forthcoming.
Democrats like Pennsylvania‘s Marjorie Margolis Mezvinsky, who should have been let off the hook to save their careers, instead had to provide every last vote because a few selfish Democrats who could have bitten the bullet took the coward’s way out.
One of them was Carolyn Maloney, who seemed most interested in pleasing her contributor base and the sorts of donors she met and socialized with through her husband, rather than following the wishes of the majority of her constituents, who overwhelmingly supported the President on whose coattails Maloney had won.
But mostly, the financial interests and the politics of Maloney’s district have coincided with those of her financial backers. And mostly, Maloney does a good job in reconciling such political and economic realities with being a Democratic member of Congress.
The story is a similar one with Schumer, as well as his junior colleague Kirsten Gillibrand, who plays Madame to Schumer‘s Wayland Flowers. Wall Street may have been appalled by Gillibrand’s opportunistic opposition to TARP as a member of the House, where Gillibrand’s parochialism was at its most voter-wise and economy-foolish, but since assuming her seat in the Senate, Gillibrand, like any good former corporate lawyer with an Ivy League background, has realized that the financial interests of her state largely coincide with those of it’s money people, and she’s mostly acted accordingly.
Truthfully, Wall Street could not really ask for more.
Maloney, Schumer and Gillibrand are just liberal enough on issues affecting the financial sector to give them cover among their constituencies and their party, making them all the more effective in carrying that sectors’s water when it really counts among Conferences that contain many members who are quite hostile to such objectives.
The problem is that Maloney, Schumer and Gillibrand all realize that Wall Street needs to swallow some new taxes and remedial remedies, but as of late, there is evidence that even the supposedly “enlightened” elements of Wall Street refuse to accept this.As the self described voice of centrist, DLC Democrats in the NYC blogworld, I’ve found Harold Ford’s campaign for US Senator from New York nearly as embarrassing as the thought that the national image of a centrist Democrat is either Ben Nelson or Joe Lieberman. These so-called centrists have done the Democratic Party nearly as much damage as the left “progressives” or the Senate’s rules. It is a subject I will take up soon, when I have the time to do it justice.
Suffice it to say that Wall Street’s support of Harold Ford’s Senate campaign, posited on the idea that Schumer and Gillibrand are insufficiently sensitive to the desires of Wall Street, legitimate and otherwise, is ingratitude of almost Brobdingnagan proportions.
It would be funny, were it not so much a product of a hothouse worldview so insulated from the cold air of reality.
It is a world of black cars, helicopters, junkets, breakfasts at the Regency and skyboxes at Giants games.
And now, this world's Senate wannabee has its House counterpart.According to the New York Times, after a career bundling unseemly amounts of Wall Street cash for Democrats, Reshma Saujani helped start an investment fund for a company partly owned by Hassan Nemazee, a Democratic fund-raiser who was charged with bank fraud last year. Jumping out of that frying pan, she landed in the fire of another fund started by the Carlyle Group, famous for its role in the fraud known as credit-default swaps. Having done all she could there, she slid over to Fortress Investment Partners, which, suffered a fate slightly less kind than Martha Coakley.
Now Ms, Saujani, having gone from strength to strength, is running against Carolyn Maloney, on the platform that Ms. Maloney, is insufficiently sensitive to the desires of the financial sector.
Ms. Saujani has actually said was “running on my Wall Street record, not from it.”
She accused Ms. Maloney and the entire New York Congressional delegation (including, presumably, Chuck Schumer) of failing to do enough to aid business. She said her work helping to tank the economy was great preparation for representing the district, and she called Maloney out for bank bashing and talking of raising taxes on bonuses, even when obtained under the most obscene circumstances.
“Instead of browbeating Wall Street, I want to invite them to help create jobs…If you go to Texas, you’ll never hear a Congressional member speak poorly of the oil industry…In Michigan, you’ll never hear a Congressional member speak poorly of the auto industry.”
It could well be argued that the ability to say such things, unfettered by limits of either decency or common sence, may emblematic of what is wrong with far too many members of Congress (Ms. Maloney included).
Ms. Saujani has just moved into the district. Her supporters exemplify the black car and helicopter set.
Take R.(for Ravenel) Boykin Curry, scion of an family of money mangers apparently too poor to afford to give their son a first name.
Sez R. Boykin:
“This is the most educated district in America and one of the top contributors to candidates outside the district…and we’re sending someone like we’re a second-rate town, who checks the box on issues and runs excellent constituent services, but who I don’t think anybody would say is adding anything to the debate.”
I wonder what they think of that sort of talk in Stuyvesant Town, Grand Street, or Astoria.
I guess people in black cars and helicopters are in a position to disdain those who see to it that someone fills the City’s potholes and wins millions for a Second Avenue subway they themselves will never deign to ride.
One can especially empathize with such disdain when it emanates from residents of "the most educated district in Amerca," who've matriculated at Harvard or Yale, and is deservedly being directed towards the sort of rabble who attended Greensboro College.
I just got through reading an article about Curry‘s efforts to create a "Creative Person's Utopia" in the Domincan Republic.
Said R. Boykin: "We are going to keep it Bohemian and not filled with dentists who got lucky in the stock market."
R. Boykin also had a designated "Keeper of the Dog" at his wedding to his wife, Celerie Kemble (you cannot make this stuff up).
Curry defined “artist” as “anyone who does something that's intellectually interesting that doesn't pay very well" and cited GEORGE WILL (?!?) as an example.
Says R. Boykin: "In the regime of Boykin Curry, all the pools will be 88 degrees! I decree, as phase one of my utopian experiment."
No wonder I’m lukewarm about Reshma Saujani, for this is the sort of person who is at the vanguard of her friends. Insulated in their 88 degree hothouses, with no daylight allowed to come between their black cars and their helicopters.
Reshma Saujani is the sort of person who thinks Congress is a gateway job.
She is Harold Ford with boobs.
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