The following post, written by The Rev. Robert A. Franek, is a part of Politicus Policy Discussion, in which writers draw connections between real lives and public policy.
While the country hung on every word of James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday morning and then spent the rest of the day analyzing the Senators questions and his responses and the implications for the Trump/Russia investigation, House Republicans were quietly stripping away protections of the momentous Dodd-Frank Act.
The Financial Choice Act passed Thursday in the House 233-186 with only one Republican, Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina, voting against the bill.
The New York Times reported that Republicans are cheering this as a first step in undoing Obama-era regulations supposedly to spur economic growth and increase well-paying jobs, but progressive groups and House Democrats note the emptiness of Republican populist rhetoric on the campaign trail and the dangers of this bill to citizens across the country. Lisa Donner explains:
“It’s a bill that’s so harmful to vast swaths of the American public if it became law,” said Lisa Donner, executive director of Americans for Financial Reform. “It would make it easier for predatory lenders to rip people off. It would make it easier for Wall Street to keep taking $17 billion out of retirees’ pockets by repealing the fiduciary rule. It would make it easier for big Wall Street banks to take the kind of risks in pursuit of short-term gains that go directly to the pockets of the tiny handful of people at the top that led to the financial crisis.”
At a press conference House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi had this to say of the House Republicans passing the bill from Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling: “Today, House Republicans are pushing a dangerous Wall Street-first — Wall Street-first, that’s who they are — bill that would drag us back to the days of the Great Recession.”
Speaking earlier on the House floor Representative Pelosi did not mince words regarding how this legislation would impact honest working families:
“So while Director Comey testified in the Senate earlier today, on this side of the Capitol, House Republicans are feeding working families to the wolves on Wall Street. As I said, I don’t paint all of Wall Street with the same brush; but the pervasive incentives baked into the Republican Bill will enable the predatory to punish the honest.”
And Business Insider noted, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a fierce critic of Wall Street, has called the bill a “handout to Wall Street.”
House Republicans know this is a bad deal for America and will only benefit Wall Street elites so they slide it through when the media and much of the country is focused on another major story. When confronted they are apt to tout greatness with misleading information designed to conceal the harm to Main Street citizens across the country who will eventually bear the significant costs through higher taxes and interest rates and potential home and job losses as was seen in the 2008 Great Recession.
A similar thing is currently happening in the Senate with another try at health care reform. It is not insignificant that the team crafting this legislation lacks not only Democrats but also women. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) blasted Republicans for not even giving Democrats an opportunity to offer amendments by failing to hold a hearing for the GOP health care bill crafted in secret that impacts one-sixth of the nation’s economy.
It will take more than a few amendments to fix their deplorable health care bill that is not even fit for despots. Even despots are human, and every Republican attempt at health care reform fails on moral and humanitarian grounds to say nothing of the deadly social and economic disaster the legislation poses for all but the most affluent.
The days of this behavior being surprising from the party of “family values” have long since passed. Nevertheless, it would behoove them to consider the holy scriptures they claim to be so important.
Those familiar with the biblical cannon know that from the teachings of Moses through the Prophets and Jesus to the letters of Paul a primary theme is the social and economic well-being of the least of these in the community from foreigners and migrants to widows and orphans. Much is written about the importance of not only caring for the poor and oppressed but subverting, thwarting, and dismantling systems of religious, social, and economic oppression.
In fact, the scriptures devote six to seven times as many verses to teachings regarding money compared to prayer. More these teachings money are always aimed with a focus on the socio-economic well-being of the community especially for all the vulnerable ones.
Prophets like Amos show that the economic and social welfare of those who are poor and oppressed is so important that God despises and even rejects the solemn prayers and scarifies of the religious elite who are responsible for the structural oppression and do nothing to change it.
21I hate, I despise your festivals,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
I will not look upon.
23Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
24But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. – Amos 5.21-24
Working to end unjust systems of oppression should be the first priority of every public servant who swears an oath to serve the people. And striving towards the betterment of the lives of the vulnerable people in our world and indeed all creation is essential to the flourishing of life for all people.
One small but not insignificant way to work towards this flourishing is by protecting and ensuring the social and economic well-being of every person. Bills that put people needlessly at risk though the deregulation of Wall Street or by jeopardizing their heath care coverage and access to affordable care fail this simple moral test.
You shall not steal (Exodus 20.15) is one of the Ten Commandments and essential to Jesus’ reiteration of the command to love one’s neighbor. This command happens also to be essential to ensuring life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all people.
The sooner Republicans stop their efforts to seal from the poor to pay the rich through their various scams and policies, the sooner this country will live up to our deepest moral values and ensure a life with dignity and equality for all.