With the economy tanking and the financial sector in meltdown the discussion has focused, rightly so, on which candidate, Obama or McCain is the right person to clean up the mess. Regulation, or more accurately, re-regulation has become the buzzword of the day and McCain has taken to selling himself as a strong proponent of using regulation to restore order and integrity to the financial sector. It’s a dubious claim at best given that he’s historically supported deregulation including this recent gem published in the current issue of Contingencies where McCain argues that the best way to reform our healthcare system is through deregulation so that the healthcare industry can perform as well as, get ready for this, the financial industry,
Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation. (emphasis added)
That John McCain would say one thing one day only to completely contradict himself the next comes as no surprise to anyone actually paying attention. But in an economy facing its worst crises since the Great Depression, where Americans are genuinely worried about their futures, as troubling as McCain’s double talk on the economy, one would at least expect some connection between his actions as president and his rhetoric as a candidate. With the entire country clamoring for the reigning in of Wall Street even a deregulation robot like McCain has to concede that something has to change. So, as disturbing as his two-faced talk of financial regulation is, what is far more disturbing is where McCain’s words and deeds are in agreement.
Of all the crimes and improprieties of the Bush administration, and there have been numerous, the worst of all has been Bush’s utter disregard for the rule of law. As bad as it was for Bush to lie us into a war, or his warrantless spying on Americans, his most un-Constitutional acts have been his attempts to circumvent the investigative authority of Congress. Arguably the most important function of Congress is to keep the Executive branch in check by investigating any potential improprieties that may surface. Integral to this function is the power of the subpoena. Without the ability to compel witnesses to testify under oath as well as to produce any pertinent documents, Congress’ ability to reach the truth is effectively nullified which is precisely what has happened under this administration. Bush’s refusal to allow Harriet Miers and Joshua Bolten to comply with Congress’ legal subpoenas in the federal attorneys firing scandal has not only thwarted Congress’ investigation into the politicization of the Justice Department, the department charged with enforcing all of this country’s laws, it has sent the clear message that this administration considers itself above the law, and Congress’ acquiescence in the matter has made it a reality. If Congress is unwilling or unable to conduct investigations, that leaves the Executive branch free to do as it pleases without regard for the Constitution, the rule of law or the wishes of the American people which is exactly what the Founding Fathers set out to prevent. They were well aware of dangers of an unchecked monarchy which is precisely the reason they drafted a Constitution which empowers the Congress to conduct investigations.
When the McCain camp announced that Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin would not comply with any subpoenas issued by the Alaskan state legislature regarding the “Troopergate” investigation, McCain was signifying that he has no more respect for the Constitution or the rule of law than Bush does. McCain’s transparently ludicrous rationalization for this was that the investigation, conducted by three Republicans and two Democrats was “tainted.” How nice it must be to decide which investigations are worthy of your acknowledgement. What if every citizen had that power? Of course that’s what the rule of law is all about; everyone is responsible for complying with law, nobody gets to decide which subpoenas they’ll honor and which ones they won’t, no exceptions, not even the president. Bush has already thumbed his nose at this concept and now McCain has followed suit demonstrating exactly how hollow his promises of “change” really are. Republicans love to paint Democrats as elitists but how elite must you be to decide which laws you’ll obey.
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Unrelated to today’s topic but too compelling to pass up is Glenn Greenwald’s post where he aptly summarizes what the AIG bailout really says about how this nation operates. The entire post is worthy of reading but there’s one point I wanted to highlight here,
Can anyone point to any discussion of what the implications are for having the Federal Government seize control of the largest and most powerful insurance company in the country, as well as virtually the entire mortgage industry and other key swaths of financial services? Haven’t we heard all these years that national health care was an extremely risky and dangerous undertaking because of what happens when the Federal Government gets too involved in an industry? What happened in the last month dwarfs all of that by many magnitudes. (emphasis added)
When it comes to healthcare, something every American needs but few can fully afford, any suggestion of a national health insurance plan is met with cries of socialism from the right but hardly a peep is heard when the nation’s largest insurance company is nationalized in order to bailout a relative handful of greedy investors. Wealthy Wall Street investors took extremely risky gambles with the market but as it turns out, it wasn’t their money they were risking, it was ours. We had no chance whatsoever of reaping the rewards of taking such risks but was there ever any doubt we’d be on the hook for the losses when the risks no longer paid off? Moreover, will any of the millions “earned” by these investors be returned to help offset the losses? Don’t count on it because just like lawbreaking by the political elites there’s virtually no chance of them being held accountable for their actions.