Let’s take a closer look at one of the most overhyped buzzwords in politicspeak: bipartisanship.
Especially as it relates to the battle for financial reform, the call for bipartisanship threatens to drown the entire debate in meaningless twaddle.
Take for example the retirement announcement by Evan Bayh, who said he was calling it quits because he just couldn’t take how politically divided the Senate had become. Nearly the entirely Washington establishment, including the press corps went into a mad swoon over Bayh, lamenting the sad lack of bipartisanship.
I shed no tears for Bayh, a member of the Senate Banking Committee who was MIA in the debate over financial reform, and was among those moderate Democrats who was expected to oppose one of the most important proposals: creation of a stand-alone financial consumer protection agency.
Bayh did lead a group of Democrats whose idea of leadership was compromising with Republicans during the Bush Administration. What really got Bayh’s juices going was fiscal discipline and budget-cutting. Now that the Republicans have shown that they have no interest in reciprocating Bayh’s spirit of compromise, he’s got no one to play with in the Senate.
It was left to the astute cable TV comedian, Bill Maher, and a lone blogger on the Huffington Post to identify Bayh, for what he really is: A Democrat who represents corporate interests in the U.S. Senate.
During his 20-year political career, Bayh was a fundraising juggernaut. As far as I can tell, no one in the mainstream media dwelled on the $26.6 million in campaign contributions Bayh garnered, as reported by the Center for Responsive Politics. His top contributor was not from Indiana. That would be the financial giant Goldman-Sachs, which ponied up more than $165,000, edging out the drug company Eli Lily for the top spot. The third top contributor was Indiana-based Conseco Inc. an insurance company. Another bailout beneficiary, Morgan Stanley, was right up there too, with more than $81,000 in contributions.
Finance and securities was the second largest industry in contributions to Bayh, outdone only by corporate law firms.
Freed from the constraints of politics, Bayh’s first act after announcing he wouldn’t run again was to stick up for one of his beleaguered constituents – the student loan industry. The administration is proposing to stop subsidizing that industry and loan directly to students. Bayh’s against that, concerned that Indiana-based student loan servicer Sallie Mae will lose jobs.
If this is bipartisanship, it’s exactly what’s wrong with the Senate, where health care and financial reform are now gasping for life, in the stranglehold of supposed centrists like Bayh and another retiring Democratic senator, Chris Dodd of Connecticut. Dodd is also a top recipient of contributions from the financial sector. You have to wonder whether Bayh and Dodd’s next stop will be top lobbying firms, where they can continue to earn top dollar from Wall Street.
We don’t need more compromise with Goldman-Sachs and Sallie Mae under the guise of bipartisanship. Let’s retire all the blather about it along with Bayh. We don’t need more senators like him who do Goldman Sach’s bidding and then piously whine about the poisonous atmosphere in Washington. We need real reform and we shouldn’t settle for politicians who don’t have the guts to fight for it.