A week ago, Robin Carnahan kicked off her “Stop the bull” tour at a donut shop in North St. Louis County by letting Norma Linke describe how a brokerage house committed fraud on her and how Carnahan stood up to the bankers and got Linke’s money back for her. Once Carnahan got behind the podium, she laid out a message that’s bound to have heads nodding everywhere she goes. Okay, my head wasn’t nodding approval that the bailouts should never have happened. Our economy might well have frozen into permanent gridlock without them. But still, I recognize how outraged people are that the miscreants who created the Great Recession have been rewarded and are making more money than ever.
You know, as Secretary of State, as Norma said, I’ve always worked hard to put middle class families first, to cut costs and red tape for businesses, saved over $12 million for them just in five years. And we stood up for consumers, like Norma, against those big financial institutions. In three years, just three years, we’ve gotten over $10 billion back for them at a time when in Washington people were asleep at the switch, when they were supposed to be doing this job.
So I’m proud of that, I’m pleased that we could help Norma and her family get the money back. She’s not the only one. You know, a guy named Tom in Chesterfield had his money frozen in a similar way, and we stood up for him and his wife. They got their money back. We’ve worked across party lines to get things done and pass the Senior Investor Protection Act that’s one of the toughest laws in the whole country when it comes to protecting seniors against financial fraud. So standing on the side of Missouri families, whether on Wall Street or in Washington is something I have done and I’ll continue to do if I go to the United States Senate. But unfortunately, unfortunately, all too often there are people in Washington that have just been there too long. They forget who they work for. They forget that they don’t work for theses powerful lobbyists and special interests. They forget that they work for us. And forgetting that to me is what represents the very worst of what’s going on in Washington these days. That’s what’s gotta change.
So here’s the plan I want to talk about today, boiled down into three, three simple things that stop putting the powerful ahead of middle class families.
The first thing I think we’ve gotta do, I think we’ve gotta stop these bailouts so that we start protecting taxpayers and taxpayers’ dollars. Now ending bailouts for big businesses, they’re the ones that … this reckless behavior caused these problems in the first place and affected every single middle class family and every business. And whether that’s a bailout on Wall Street or a bailout of big oil, we gotta have it stop. We can’t let these corporate interests just run hog wild, just make mistakes, cause a mess, fail to keep us safe and then expect us to clean it up. It’s gotta stop. It’s wrong. (applause)
It also to me means we’ve gotta enact tough Wall Street reforms, tough Wall Street reforms. Because to me, while Missouri families are continuing to suffer an economic crisis, you have Wall Street, they have just gone back to business as usual, you know. They are doling out millions of dollars in bonuses, they’re engaging in the same risky behavior, and they’re making record profits. Still. And all of this is because the folks in Washington have not yet fixed what’s a broken system. I’m happy that we’re finally talking about it, but it shouldn’t have taken two years to get around to fixing this problem.
We’ve gotta fix this too big to fail mentality. We have to ban the risky behavior that got us into this in the first place. And we need to put real consumer protections in place so that it doesn’t happen again. (applause) And to me protecting taxpayers means we gotta not have any more of these giveaways, particularly to big oil companies at the expense of taxpayers. (applause) For way too long, these big oil companies have benefited from tens of billions–you may not know this–from tens of billions of dollars in government subsidies–that’s our money–and giveaways. And you know, we’re the ones who’re paying for this. We need to understand what this money is and where it’s coming from. It’s our money that’s going to subsidize these big oil companies. They continue to reap these benefits, and middle class families continue to struggle and be gouged at the pump. So I think it’s time we stopped these tax breaks and the giveaways to big oil companies, and, AND, held them fully accountable for the messes they create–the environmental messes and the economic messes.
Carnahan lays out a simple message that appeals to people’s righteous anger. She avoids sounding like a policy wonk, delivering instead the down home goods. And considering her record of opposing bank fraud since she’s been Secretary of State, she’s got some street cred on these issues.
On the other hand–and I guess I’m too persnickety–I can’t resist pointing out that the oil companies have never gotten “bailouts”. I’d rather she used that word correctly. But Carnahan would have every right to be exasperated by such a prissy lecture, because she’s absolutely right to rant about the subsidies Exxon, Chevron, and Conoco have gotten. I want any legislator of mine to get into high dudgeon about those giveaways.
Carnahan also proposed ideas about helping small business and about forcing more transparency in campaigns as well as in Congress. Those will be the subject of my next posting.