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Repealing financial reforms is all the GOP offers

Posted: Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Voters seeking revenge this election for the collapse of the economy, and their frustrations with a loud, crude campaign season, must not let anger overtake their own self-interest.

Fixing what is broken in the nation's financial system will not be accomplished by electing Republicans hellbent on repealing the reforms meant to prevent another fleecing of America. The GOP is too eager to lurch back to business as usual.

Mad at Democrats? Of course, but the Obama administration and a Democratic Congress authored and passed legislation to end the most grievous financial abuses and take the targets off the backs of consumers.

Republican majorities in Congress would take the country in what direction? Backward. The GOP sincerely pledges to scrap financial reforms. I think the plan is to make Bernie Madoff the speaker of the House. Could be. The party offers no clue what it might do next. Even the true believers were embarrassed by the political pap in the "Pledge to America."

Economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel Prize, sums up the waning days of the Bush administration in "FREEFALL," his scary new book:

"The corporate safety net was extended from commercial banks to investment banks and then to an insurance company - to firms that not only had paid no insurance premiums for the risks against which the taxpayer was protecting them, but also had gone to great lengths to avoid taxation."

American taxpayers are stuck with the gambling losses, and the Republican Party makes it a point of pride to get the roulette wheels spinning again.

Republicans campaign making motorboat noises by running a finger over their lips. Oh, yes, financial reforms must be repealed because, uh, what about Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae? Stiglitz's eyes roll in print. The idea these public, then private, now nationalized money pits for taxpayers precipitated the collapse of the economy is "sheer nonsense."

What about the uncertainty wracking small business about health-care reforms? For starters, there is no obligation in the law to provide coverage for employees. Substantial tax credits may make it financially attractive to do so.

Insurance companies are jacking up rates in the race to hasten their irrelevance. Meanwhile, they struggle with their script. Premiums went up because the new law allows parents to keep their children on their policies to age 26. Wow, really expensive? Well, no, not in Washington, which had already bumped the age to 25 with nominal effect.

Republicans want to allow health insurance purchases across state lines. Maybe they will like and support a program being explored with Oregon.

About the only thing the GOP is more reluctant to do than acknowledge its role in doubling the national debt, is to help pay it off. You know, that whole personal responsibility thing. The attitude ticks some people off:

"If there were such a thing as Chapter 11 for politicians, the Republican push to extend the unaffordable Bush tax cuts would amount to a bankruptcy filing." So says David Stockman, a director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan.

Stockman, in a July New York Times commentary, blames current troubles in part on "the vast unproductive expansion of our financial sector." In the case of public debt, it has been the GOP's embrace "of the insidious doctrine that deficits don't matter if they result from tax cuts."

Republicans have a delusional expectation they benefit from voter anger. Nameless, untraceable benefactors are wagering hundreds of millions of dollars confident they can earn it back with a GOP victory.

Ignore the nonsense and willful distractions.

Bring this election home. Ballot choices grounded in fear and anger will only compound the financial distress and heartache.

• Lance Dickie is a columnist for The Seattle Times. Readers may send him e-mail at ldicki@seattletimes.com.



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