In the Arena

Losing Honorably

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The New York Times today reports that the wizards of Wall Street, long a major source of cash for the Democratic Party, are drifting Republican. Exhibit A is a gentleman named Paul Singer:

Mr. Singer, professorial and soft-spoken, used a gathering of business and government leaders at the conservative Manhattan Institute to lash out at “indiscriminate attacks by political leaders against anything that moves in the world of finance.” Government efforts to “take over and run” the economy through more regulations, he warned, threatened to ruin the United States’ standing as the world leader in finance.

This fellow clearly is living on some other planet. It was, after all, the “world of finance” that created and multiplied the derivative shell games that gave us the Great Recession. And it was our “political leaders” who then bailed out the banksters like Paul Singer. And if by protecting the investments of the vast majority of Americans, Democrats ruin the United’s standing as the world leader in casino gambling finance, then that’s a price they should be proud to pay (although I think Singer may be exaggerating a wee bit here). In fact, I favored a tax on derivative transactions, rather than the clunky regulatory mechanism that has been established, on the principle that you tax the behaviors you want to discourage. If such a tax caused all derivative trading to move to Dubai, I think it would–in the long run–be good for the U.S. A percentage of the young wizards going into finance in order to make obscene gobs of money might then be redirected into businesses that make actual products that can create jobs and be exported.

In any case, if Democrats lose control of the House because they have acted in the interests of most Americans on issues like financial reform, then so be it. And if Republicans gain control of the House because they have abandoned basic American principles like freedom of religion, then God save them. What is distressing now is that rather than taking the pains to explain to their constituents why they did what they did, Democrats are running from what they did. This sort of stampede can only lead to the exits.