The following is an excellent article from the February 1, 2015 issue of The Progressive Populist on page 10 titled “Dispatches: Lame Duck ‘Cromnibus’ Showed Bipartisan Splits” and I quote:
“LAME DUCK ‘CROMNIBUS’ SHOWED BIPARTISAN SPLITS. Congress disappointed many progressives when it accepted a provision that allows federally insured banks to get back into highly speculative derivative swaps as part of the $1.1 trillion “Cromnibus” spending bill in December. The bill funded most of the federal government through September 2015, before Republicans gained control of the Senate, but the rider on the “swaps pushout rule” guts one of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reforms. However, the fight showed a potential progressive populist insurgency in the House and Senate that is willing to buck President Obama if necessary.
William Greider wrote in The Nation (12/12), “The congressional showdown has given us an exciting glimpse of what the future might look like if [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Elizabeth Warren lead the way for a liberal insurgency. Both stood up and fired back at the stink of what Obama and many Dems had accepted. Warren and Pelosi did not personally attack their party’s doggedly passive president. But both essentially declared their independence from him. Their willingness to confront and counter the cynicism that passes for policy debate is a hopeful marker for larger change ahead.”
The 1,600-page Cromnibus passed the House (12/11/14) with a 219-206 vote, as 67 Republicans — mainly teabaggers — joined 139 Dems voting “no.” Then the bill passed the Senate (12/13/14) with a 56-40 vote, with 18 Republicans, 21 Democrats and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont voting no.
Democratic no votes included Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut; Cory Booker of New Jersey; Barbara Boxer of California; Sherrod Brown of Ohio; Maria Cantwell of Washington; Al Franken of Minnesota; Kirsten Gillibrand of New York; Tom Harkin of Iowa; Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii; Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; Carl Levin of Michigan; Joe Manchin III of West Virginia; Ed Markey of Massachusetts; Claire McCaskill of Missouri; Robert Menendez of New Jersey; Jeff Merkley of Oregon; Jack Reed of Rhode Island; Jon Tester of Montana; Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Ron Wyden of Oregon. Of those, Harkin has left the Senate (and was replaced by teabag Republican Joni Ernst). That leaves a potential progressive populist bloc of about 21 in the Senate.
Republican no votes on the Cromnibus included Bob Corker of Tennessee; Michael D. Crapo of Idaho; Ted Cruz of Texas; Jeff Flake of Arizona; Charles E. Grassley of Iowa; Dean Heller of Nevada, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah; John McCain of Arizona; Jerry Moran of Kansas; Rand Paul of Kentucky; Rob Portman of Ohio; Jim Risch of Idaho; Marco Rubio of Florida; Tim Scott of South Carolina; Jeff Sessions of Alabama; Richard C. Shelby of Alabama; and David Vitter of Louisiana.
(Earlier, the Senate voted 77-19 to stop a filibuster attempt, as 13 Republicans, five Democrats and Sanders voted to filibuster the bill. Democrats supporting the filibuster included Brown, Franken, Manchin, McCaskill and Warren.)
After the House vote, Politico reported (12/11/14) that the opposition to the provision weakening Dodd-Frank was as much about the policy in question as it was about preventing Wall Street from establishing a blueprint for chipping away at the financial reform bill one provision at a time.
Another controversial measure in the Cromnibus allows the benefits of current retirees to be severely cut if necessary to save some of the nation’s most distressed pension plans. The change would apply to multi-employer pensions, where a group of businesses in the same industry join forces with unions to provide pension coverage for employees. The plans cover 10 mln US workers.
There are about 1,400 multi-employer plans, many of which remain in good fiscal health, Michael Fletcher noted in the Washington Post (12/9/14). But several dozen have failed, and others are staggering toward insolvency. As many as 200 plans covering 1.5 mln workers are in danger of running out of money over the next decades. The idea of cutting benefits is reluctantly supported by some unions and retirement fund managers who see it as the only way to salvage pensions in plans that are in imminent danger of running out of money.
One of those troubled plans is the Teamsters’ Central States fund, which has been stressed by steep membership declines, an aging workforce and downturns in the stock market that have put the retirement benefits of 400,000 participants in jeopardy.
Central States pensions are among the best enjoyed by working-class retirees: After 30 years on the road, many are entitled to upward of $3,000 a month for the rest of their lives. But the fund has about $18 bln in assets, it pays annual benefits of $2.8 bln to retirees, and it receives just $700 mln each year from employers. Even with with strong stock market returns of recent years, that puts the plan on course to run out of money within 10-15 years.
Under the agreement reached by congressional negotiators, retirees over age 80 as well as those who are disabled would be shielded from any reductions. Also, benefit cuts would be subject to a vote of plan participants.
Nonetheless, many retirees feel betrayed, the Post reported. “I never dreamed they would pull the rug out from under us,” said Greg Smith, 66, a retired shipping clerk who retired in 2011 with a $3,000-a-month pension after 42 years on the job. “I actually retired because I was worried about them cutting pensions. I thought I would be grandfathered in with protections. But I guess not.”
See a summary of pension provisions and a calculator to figure out how much benefits could be cut at pensionrights.org.”
(THE REASON IT’S SO IMPORTANT TO HAVE A BANKING BILL WITH REGULATIONS IS TO MAKE SURE WE DON’T GO THROUGH THE SAME PROBLEMS THAT PRES FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT WENT THROUGH AFTER THEY HAD THE 1929 CRASH. HE, RATHER THAN BAILING OUT THE BANKS LIKE PRES GEORGE W BUSH DID IN 2008 WITH THE $700 BILLION TARP BANK BAILOUT ENGINEERED BY FORMER TREASURY SECRETARY HANK PAULSON AND DEPICTED IN THE MOVIE “TOO BIG TO FAIL.” PRES ROOSEVELT DID SOMETHING BETTER, HE JUST CLOSED DOWN A THIRD OF THE BANKS WHICH WERE BAD. HIS SECOND DAY IN OFFICE, HE CLOSED ALL THE BANKS FOR A WEEK. THEN REOPENED TWO-THIRDS OF THEM AND PASSED THE FEDERAL DEPOSIT INSURANCE CORPORATION (FDIC) TO INSURE THE DEPOSITS AND REGULATORS TO INSPECT THE BANKS TO MAKE SURE THEY WERE BEING RUN PROPERLY. HE ALSO PASSED THE GLASS-STEAGALL ACT TO SEPARATE THE COMMERCIAL FROM THE INVESTMENT BANKS AND THE STOCK MARKET, WHICH WORKED SUCCESSFULLY FOR OVER 60 YEARS. THAT’S WHAT PRES GEORGE W BUSH SHOULD HAVE DONE IS CLOSE SOME OF THE BANKS, RATHER THAN BEGGING THE DEMOCRATS TO BAIL THEM OUT. THEN WE WOULDN’T HAVE THIS PROBLEM WE HAVE TODAY WITH THE GROWING, UNREGULATED, TOXIC DERIVATIVES DEFLATING OUR DOLLAR TO THE POINT OF BECOMING WORTHLESS BECAUSE DERIVATIVES HAVE NO PROVEN VALUE AS AN ASSET LIKE GOLD, SILVER, LAND AND OTHER GRAIN COMMODITIES. THIS IS WHAT PRES ROOSEVELT TRIED TO ESTABLISH WITH THE BRETTON WOODS CONFERENCE IN JULY, 1944 TO ESTABLISH A WORLD-WIDE CURRENCY STANDARD BACKED BY GOLD AND IMPLEMENTED AFTER WORLD WAR II, WHICH WAS ATTENDED BY 44 COUNTRIES ALL OVER THE WORLD. IT WORKED UNTIL PRES RICHARD NIXON TOOK US OFF THE GOLD STANDARD ON AUGUST 15, 1971 AND THE WORLD ECONOMY WAS BEEN DECLINING SINCE THEN.
LaVErn Isely, Progressive, Independent, Overtaxed, Middle Class Taxpayer and Public Citizen and AARP Members