Monday, December 12, 2011

"'Hillbillies(?) versus Bankers": The Plot Against American Consumer Rights in Congress

Those of you old enough to remember a popular if inane situation comedy from the 1960's called "The Beverly Hillbillies" likely also recall a shady banker called "Mr. Drysdale".  Drysdale--no relation to the Baseball Hall of Fame Don Drysdale, the L.A. Dodger right-hander who helped pitch his team into their share of National League titles and some World Series victories--was a  caricature but like all caricatures that catch on, one with a kernel of truth to him.  Drysdale and his mythical "Commerce Bank of Beverly Hills" was always scheming up ways to try and hold on to the millions that were held by a family of rich bumpkins, headed by Jed Clampett, who struck oil in some hoary patch of land in the Ozark mountains. 

"They loaded up the truck and moved to Bevelree--hills that is," so the song went. And despite the fact that the Clampetts were out of their rural element, somehow they always got the best of Mr. Drysdale, the slick big-city banker.  This was a common theme in American pop culture at least since the rise of progressive politics in America in the 1890's--the notion that cities were full of corruption and greedy people, but it was the heartland of America that could always be counted on to uphold moral values and clean up the worst excesses of these metropolitan robber barons. 
   If only this notion were true.

As I see it, the truth is that the "heartland" people have for the most part been fooled and taken to the cleaners lock, stock and barrels by the real banker-schemers of American banking, investments and financial chicanery.  At least two trillion dollars in retirement savings and housing values have gone up the chimney in the last four years and is not coming back k. It's so bad that, as President Obama pointed out in a recent interview for CBS, many of these Wall Street investors manipulate the laws so well through their shock troops in the lobbying sector that what they did was not technically illegal.  That is, once the firewall between the investment banks and the regular commercial banks and mortgage industries was removed with the final repeal of the Glass-Stegall Act of 1933, sixty-six years after it was passed to prevent an economic calamity, Wall Street's major players indeed went on a spree, cashed in on their winnings and took the rest of us to the cleaners by the necessity of bailing them out.
O.K., a lot of you are saying this is old news.  Yes it is.  But what isn't old news--what is damn pertinent to people all over this nation and in Europe and other parts of the globe--is that these same high finance forces are fighting tooth and nail to prevent the establishment of new (i.e. restored  )  regulations to keep it from happening again.  A new Consumer  Protection Agency  has been established by an earlier Democratic-controlled Congress but now it faces being rendered powerless by the same people who put us all in an economic ditch.  
These banksters want to keep us as many folks as ignorant as possible of what their rights are and of what is really going on  when they sign on the  dotted line for a line of credit or a home mortgage.       

How fitting that today, when the powers of unregulated financial clout have driven us to the not-so pretty pass we see today--that one of West Coast's best editorial writers, Bill Varble of the Medford Mail Tribune, has drawn a paralell between the benign pop culture zaniness  of the 1960's to the malignant  aspects of unregulated consumer-capitalism of today. Here is the main thrust of his December 11 editorial: 

"The CFPB (Consumer Finance Protection Bureau) is the brainchild of Harvard law Professor (and now Massachusetts Senate candidate) Elizabeth Warren, who was passed over to lead the agency because Republicans objected to her, and because Cordray, although a Democrat, was considered more politically palatable. But Republicans, who had said for months they would block any nomination to run the agency, say it should have no director at all. They say it should be run by an "oversight board." And they want to require it to seek congressional approval of its budget instead of being funded by the Federal Reserve, of which it is a part.
"Republicans denied they want to weaken the new agency or undermine its mission to protect Wall Street cronies.
"This notion we are against consumer protection, that we're trying to gut CFPB, is just silly," Sen. David Vitter, R-La., a member of the Senate's banking committee, declared with a straight face.
"What's silly is to insist a new agency to protect consumers be run by a five-person committee, and that you get to hold the purse strings, and then to suggest there's any other explanation than the obvious: When it comes down to consumers vs. Wall Street, you're looking out for the Street.
"Where does it go from here? Bet on Obama appointing Cordray to the post through a "recess appointment" when the Congress is not in session, probably in January, and Republicans howling that that's not fair, and off we'll go again.
"In the meantime, the CFPB is overseeing mortgages to prevent some of the abuses that led to the mortgage meltdown, one of its main duties. It is not, however, doing anything about issues such as payday loan abuses. And as Washington watchers know, no agency in town is going to be effective without capable, energetic leadership.
In the classic TV sitcom "The Beverly Hillbillies," the money-hungry bank president, Mr. Drysdale, was always willing to jump through any hoops to toady up to the nouveau riche Clampetts. In real life, 99 percent of us are anonymous cyphers playing a zero-sum game with the colossus that is the financial industry."

 'Caveat Emptor' is a slogan we can no longer afford.  Regulations must be restored and consumers must have protections against under-handedness. To do otherwise, to let a second economic crisis befall us, would be the height of bumpkin-ness. 

It remains to be seen if enough American voters have learned the lesson--that rich or poor, smart or just aware , it doesn't pay to be a Jed Clampett.    


  1. Is it any wonder that people are turned off by politics when they see such blatant abuse and know that there is nothing they can do or have done about it?

  2. Yes I agree totally with you Doug, it is a very insane world we live in right now. And as I see it, things wont change for the better as long as some people put blinders on and plugs in their ears and not listen or see the truth. Watching Fox and listening to Limbuagh is sure not going to make them smart in which way to vote. And a vote is what this country needs to rid us of these jerks in Congress who are styfling this country and making money hand over fist for their own enrichment, be damned the poor and middle class, we are not important in their eyes. I hope with all my heart people wake up and smell the corruption that is in our government and stop all this crap from keep happening.

  3. Who was it the other day who said that a Consumer Protection Agency was 'out of the Stalinist era?'

    Round the bend, these folks are - round the bend...

  4. No it's not any wonder, Jim. People know money talks and that votes in Congress are swayed by lucre from the K Streeters and that Wall Street has friends in every White House, no mater whose elected. This is one of the reasons why they say "money is the mother's milk of politics" and why people have to be pretty desperate to get out and make noises about it. It would take a mighty "thumbs down" from the general public for people to put some scare into this system. The Occupy Movement is at least trying over here.

    That some can 't even be bothered to vote is even more frustrating.

  5. Yes, Marty, I think more and more people need to recognize that what we used to see as propaganda from Moscow or Beijing isn't a threat---the most dangerous propaganda comes from within our own nation, and it comes wrapped in the American flag and it benefits multi-national banking first and foremost.

    Knee-jerk patriotism won't help folks now in what is being callled "The New Normal" of American life. Folks have to research and think about their own particular situation, which, if they are still middle-class or have children trying to get into an unstable job market, is more and more insecure.

  6. No doubt that person was an idiot, Will, but that's just what passes for serious political discourse in some quarters. (Sounds like Gingrich or Bachmann.)

    Yeah, comparing consumer protection to the NKVD gulags and the firing squads of the Great Terror?...nuts!

  7. ""Who was it the other day who said that a Consumer Protection Agency was 'out of the Stalinist era?'""
    It was a republican senator, Lindsey Graham

  8. Thanks Marty. One less GOP guy now that I had a shred of respect for.

  9. I think Obama is being set up for his second term by exactly the same strategy as last time, that is put up a collection of bumbling non-starters and dingbats who between them will guarantee his re-election, by cancelling each other out by their transparent lunacy.

    As I see it the only apparently wild card is Ron Paul who is carefully making himself unelectable by striving to be elected only to ultimately abolish himself. Medics in politics should be treated with the utmost care I think!

    Interesting links you have made here to The Beverley Hill Billies, a favourite programme of my boyhood, I'd forgotten all about Mr Drysdale until I read your post Doug. Thanks for setting the political situation in the context of the history of popular culture reversing Karl Marx's famous dictum:- history repeats itself, "the first as tragedy, then as farce".....on this occasion it seems to have been the other way round.

    Great blog Doug

  10. Yes, this is a weak field or "side" the Republicans are putting out for next year. Every new debate from this GOP pack or pronouncement makes me think "set up for a second term" is just what Obama is going to get, whether his wife and kids really want it or not.

    Ron Paul actually is the only sane Republican on foreign policy. (He is not a hawk on Iran.) That makes leftists happy but his anti-government screed only appreals to the rightists. In a general election, he would cancel himself out for all but a single-digit percentage of votes.

    I was a fan of "The Beverly Hillbillies" back in the day. Something about swimming pools being "cement ponds" and hicks with shotguns spouting homilies amongst the stately date palm trees of west L.A., combined with the antics of the shylock Drysdale, and premier village idiot Jethro Bodine always made for quality prime time entertainment in front to the old televison set for we of the younger set.

    It was the American version of "Upstairs, Downstairs" I guess you'd say. ;-)

    Actually, that's a keen observation I'd hadn't considered regarding Karl Marx's famous dictum, AA. It certainly provides a paradox worthy of Oscar Wilde given the upside-down nature of the way the world is right now. Thanks for your most needed input.

  11. ........merry christmas doug take it easy and all the best.