Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I wish this were my senator!

(AP, via TPM)

I'm not sorry I donated money to Elizabeth Warren's senate campaign, especially not when I read things like this:
Progressives fell in love with Elizabeth Warren because they saw in her a fighter — someone who would break from Washington’s longstanding tradition of cozying up to big banks and instead hold them accountable for bad behavior.

She hasn’t disappointed. ...

The latest example came last Thursday during a Banking Committee hearing, when Warren demanded answers from a panel of federal regulators as to why the multinational bank HSBC got off with a fine for money laundering for Mexican drug cartels — along with violating international sanctions against several countries, including Iran and Libya — when people caught with drugs go to jail for life.

“No one individual went to trial, no individual was banned from banking and there was no hearing to consider shutting down HSBC’s activities here in the United States,” Warren said. “So … what does it take? How many billions of dollars do you have to launder for drug lords and how many economic sanctions do you have to violate before someone will consider shutting down a financial institution like this?” ...

“If you’re caught with an ounce of cocaine, the chances are good you’re going to go to jail. If it happens repeatedly, you may go to jail for the rest of your life,” Warren said. “But evidently, if you launder nearly a billion dollars for drug cartels and violate international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your own bed at night — every single individual associated with this. I just — I think that’s fundamentally wrong.”

I, too, think that's fundamentally wrong. We may have always had a two-tiered justice system, one for the very wealthy and one for everyone else, but it's come to truly ridiculous proportions, don't you think?

Elizabeth Warren is a brand-new United States senator, but the Democrats gave her a seat on the Banking Committee and she's come out swinging. That's not the only example, either.
That hearing followed an exchange in mid-February when Warren caught a panel of half a dozen senior bank regulators flat-footed by asking them, simply: “Can you identify when you last took [one of] the Wall Street banks to trial?”

“We do not have to bring people to trial,” said Thomas Curry, who leads the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. She retorted, “I appreciate that you say you don’t have to bring them to trial. My question is when did you bring them to trial?”

None of the regulators could answer, responding with a series of dodges and non sequiturs. Warren had made her point — and she didn’t hesitate to drive it home.

“There are district attorneys and United States attorneys out there every day squeezing ordinary citizens on sometimes very thin grounds and taking them to trial in order to make an example, as they put it,” the freshman senator said. “I’m really concerned that ‘too big to fail’ has become ‘too big for trial.’”

What do bankers risk if they violate the law? Nothing, really. We're talking serious crimes, too, not petty misdemeanors. If they get caught, even repeatedly, their corporation might get fined. But the people committing these crimes? They continue to enjoy their multi-million dollar bonuses in their gated communities, bitching about how hard it is to get good servants.

They don't have to worry about jail, because they don't even have to worry about being charged with a crime. They're too important, too wealthy, for such petty concerns. Even when they collapsed the global economy, no one was held accountable for anything.

So why should they even care what the laws are? If it's profitable, they'll make lots and lots of money, and there's a good chance they won't get caught. But if they do get caught? Well, nothing will happen, anyway. Jail is for the petty drug dealers, not the people on the top, laundering hundreds of millions for drug cartels.

In Elizabeth Warren, we've finally got someone fighting for us. She may not be able to change the system, not all by herself, but she can make noise. She can draw attention to this stuff. And the bankers really hate her for that.

I've got to credit Senate Democrats, too. They might be too timid or too friendly with bankers, themselves, but they did give Elizabeth Warren a seat on the Banking Committee. They could have buried her away somewhere, especially given her lack of seniority. But they didn't do that. They gave her a soapbox, and she's using it.

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