Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Credit Crisis : Walz –v- Bachmann : Engaged –v- ill-informed

Do you remember the 60’s question “What if they gave a war and nobody came ?” …
well ”What if America had a crisis and only ONE Republican showed up ?”
or “What if American had a crisis, would your Representative report for duty ?”

When the Bush Administration stated it wanted a bailout package totaling $700 billion giving unlimited powers to the Secretary of the Treasury, Congress – Republicans and Democrats – were alarmed.

The vote was actually the easy part … either you accept this legislation or continue to redefine it until acceptable legislation is created. Eventually, a package was approved at a higher amount but with curtailed powers … with notable NO Votes from Congressman Tim Walz (D-MN-01), Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN-06) and Congressman Collin Peterson (D-MN-07).

After approval, it would be easy for Congress to let the Bush Administration work out its plan during this period prior to the November elections.
That would be wrong.
With America’s financial future changed by government intervention and partial nationalization of the nation’s largest banks, it’s clear that we want our Representatives involved. The key question is what new regulations would be enacted — and how can Congress ensure that the regulations will work.

Peterson in his capacity as Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture was concerned about the failure of American International Group (AIG), Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, and Washington Mutual, among others and the impact of shadowy banking practice of credit default swaps (CDS) and other derivatives. The Ag Committee has oversight of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission with the obvious implications of the Commodity Exchange Act in this crisis.

Congressman Peterson responded to the crisis by scheduling a hearing despite this being “campaign season”.
After the hearing, Chairman Peterson offered this scary warning “There is an estimated $55 trillion in credit default swaps somewhere out there, but no one knows for sure if any of these swaps offset each other, exactly who is on the hook for these swaps, who is trading with who and on what terms; and worst of all, no one has any idea who is solvent and who is upside down. The first step we need to take is to shed some light on just how the unwinding of these obligations will take place.”
Congressman Walz went off the campaign trail, participated in the hearing, and offered his assessment.
Sadly, as important as this issue is, only ONE Republican participated in the hearing … Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).

While Peterson did his job, he wasn’t alone. The Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee scheduled a hearing for Tuesday, October 21st “to examine our failure to regulate credit default swaps, collateralized debt obligations and their derivatives, and the other fruits of their deregulatory push from 1995-2006. The results of that effort are now in—a crisis that is sweeping the global economy and threatening tens of millions of working families. The committee’s job is to see that this never happens again and that is the purpose of the hearing.” The hearing was broadcast via C-SPAN and offered expert opinion and suggestions from a panel of witnesses.

Sadly, Minnesota’s member of the committee, Representative Bachmann was not there to participate.
$55 trillion in credit default swaps problem and Bachmann is a no show.
IF Bachmann has problems with the course the Committee Chairman is pursuing, by skipping the hearing as a means of protest, she is doing a disservice to the process.
Rather than listen to solutions, Bachmann blames the Community Reinvestment Act for the problem, yet the CRA’s impact has been wildly exaggerated.
Where was Bachmann ? At a Rotary meeting !

If you are a regular viewer of CSPAN you have noticed the lack of Republican participation as well as there use of procedural tactics to delay votes.
Enough is enough.
Members of Congress will often cite the number of roll call votes they participate in as a symbol of their involvement; I suggest that they also tell voters how many Committee hearings they missed and to provide a reason why they were not there.

From my vantage point, none of these Members of Congress liked the bailout bill but Congressmen Peterson and Walz are actively working to ensure taxpayers interests are properly considered while Congresswoman Bachmann’s absence is inexcusable. During the August recess, Bachmann was expending Congressional funds to fly back and forth to Washington (and blogging ) that the House should be called “back immediately so we can debate and vote on the legislation that has been offered to deal with rising energy costs.” Drilling was her issue, not the housing crisis even though her district has a higher foreclosure rate than the rest of Minnesota and the rest of the country.

Minnesota voters need to know whose working for them (Peterson and Walz) while Bachmann may be more concerned with her relationship with her number one campaign contributor --TCF Bank, which is also one of the top-ten mortgage lenders in the state.

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