Jonathan Gurwitz’ latest column is a textbook example of partisan hackery, diverting attention away from the chief culprits of our economic crisis and trying to cast the blame at the feet of Democrats in Congress who have been practically powerless until just two months ago.
Democrats may have gained a majority in Congress after the 2006 mid-term elections, but they have not had the power to actually change the direction of the government until just recently. Republicans still had the upperhand with a president who could veto legislation and a Senate that would filibuster everything else.
And Gurwitz is also disingenuous when he claims the problem began with “failed congressional oversight”, as if we elect our Congressmen to regulate and police the banking system and not the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC, of course, was defanged over the past eight years by a Republican administration committed to its ideological deregulation agenda. The stage was set by the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 which was never debated in the House or Senate and was slipped into an omnibus budget bill at the last minute by Sen. Phil Gramm.
The bill contained a provision that has come to be known as the “Enron loophole,” which exempted most over-the-counter energy trades and trading on electronic energy commodity markets. The “loophole” was drafted by lobbyists for Enron working with senator Phil Gramm seeking a deregulated atmosphere for their new experiment, “Enron On-line.”
But rather than acknowledging this deregulatory boondoggle, Gurwitz wants to distract readers with the totally innocuous issue of congressional payraises. Every year it’s the same thing, conservative government haters criticize the cost-of-living adjustment for Congressional salaries. If it wasn’t for the bipartisan compromise that made the increases automatic, Congress would never get a pay increase because no Congressman would ever want to take all the criticism and abuse for voting for it. Then we would end up with a situation where only the very wealthy could afford to be in Congress, which is already the case for many public offices anyway. And just remember that these automatic COLAs were in place the whole time Republicans were running Congress, but conservatives never complained about it until Democrats retook control.