Despite a slew of damaging revelations Jack Lew has been confirmed by the Senate. With a 71-26 vote Lew received more Republican support than Chuck Hagel. On some level Lew’s easy confirmation is a testament to how much influence Wall Street has in Washington but it still is interesting to compare the two nominations and their confirmation fights when you look at the actual evidence.
Hagel was briefly under suspicion of taking money from compromising groups – Lew has taken money directly from people he will regulate as Treasury Secretary. As Treasury Secretary Lew will be in charge of the IRS – Lew avoided paying his taxes by using offshore tax havens. In the event of another financial crisis Lew, as Treasury Secretary, will have to consider bailouts and under what conditions they will be allowed to occur under – Lew took a $940,000 bonus a day before Citigroup received a $301 billion federal bailout. The conflicts are endless.
Yet 20 Republicans crossed the aisle to vote for Lew and every Democrat voted yes. The only dissenting voice from the left was independent Senator Bernie Sanders who voted against Lew and issued a statement condemning President Obama’s continued policy of placing Wall Street apparatchiks all throughout his government.
Sanders cited major policy differences with Lew on the role that Wall Street deregulation played in causing the recession, his views on too-big-to-fail banks, preserving Social Security and Medicare, cracking down on offshore tax havens and the price American workers have paid for trade agreements that ship jobs to low-wage countries overseas.
“We need a secretary of the Treasury who does not come from Wall Street but is prepared to stand up to the enormous power of Wall Street. We need a Treasury secretary who will end the current Wall Street business model of operating the largest gambling casino the world has ever seen and demand that Wall Street start investing in the job-creating productive economy. Do I believe that Jack Lew is that person? No, I do not.”
A supporter of President Barack Obama, Sanders said he is nevertheless “extremely concerned that virtually all of his [Obama’s] key economic advisers have come from Wall Street.”
Given the total failure of either political party to stand up for the people and the rule of law by opposing such a clearly conflicted nominee, might it be time to simply resign ourselves to this endemic corruption? Perhaps there is a way for the taxpayers to get something out of the deal. How about simply auctioning off the job?
Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan etc. can all bid on the job – they are going to get what they want anyway lets up the price. Then at least the money from the sale can directly go into the Treasury rather than going through that pesky campaign finance and lobbying system. Citigroup has already paid for its access to Lew why should Goldman be left out?