Senate Finance Committee Puts Working Families At the Back of the Line
by alexmhogan, Tue Jan 22, 2008 at 08:18:02 AM EST
The GOP may have lost control of the Senate, but Wall Street is still in charge. The Senate Finance Committee - chaired by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.)- has been holding hearings on an economic stimulus package, and while organized labor proved to be key to the Democrats victory in 06, it's the Wall Street wing of party that has the ear of most committee members.
From the Washington Post:
Some union leaders are worried that they are not being heard, particularly in the Senate, and that a group of Wall Street Democrats led by former Treasury secretary Robert Rubin is getting more attention.
Case in point, labor leaders say, are the two initial hearings by the Senate Finance Committee on the stimulus bill. One will feature Jason Furman, director of the Brookings Institution's Hamilton Project, a group heavy with Wall Street backers such as Rubin. The other will feature Peter R. Orszag, the head of the Congressional Budget Office, who is a former director of the Hamilton Project.
The Hamilton Project is the child of Bill Clinton's top economic adviser and investment banker Robert Rubin and to many progressives dismay, it has quickly became many Democrats favored economic think-tank.
According to American Prospect editor Robert Kuttner:
As Clinton's top economic adviser, Rubin's dubious counsel included making the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) a priority over health reform (Hillary Clinton's objections notwithstanding), and pushing the budget all the way to surplus, protected from a Republican treasury raid only by a fictitious Social Security "lockbox." He did support expansion of the earned income tax credit and minor social-spending increases, but fiscal discipline was paramount. These views are not just those of a centrist policy kibitzer; they are exactly what you would expect of a leading banker.
That Rubin and his co-thinkers are the "go-to" people for Hill Democrats has progressives like Kuttner rightfully worried.
The Hamilton Project's actual program does not advocate serious new social outlay, nor does it have a kind word for unions, wage regulation, or social norms for trade. With the exception of one early paper by Jacob Hacker on "Universal Insurance," Hamilton proposals are basically budget-neutral. I asked Rubin what level of net new social outlay the project envisioned. He declined to say...The small-bore programs advocated by Rubin and Hamilton offer little to economically stressed citizens. If Rubin is in charge of the Democratic economic program once again, the message will not rouse voters, because the policy will do next to nothing for the average American.
Or as Steelworkers' president Leo Gerard put it to Senate Democrats:
"These aren't the guys you ought to be listening to. These are the guys who brought the economic insanity we're dealing with now," Gerard said. "This is the same crowd that helped engineer the credit crunch and the collapse of mortgages."
But after many complaints, the Finance Committee said there might be able to make room for the AFL-CIO:
But at least labor might get its say in the Senate. A day after The Post asked the Finance Committee about labor's complaints, the AFL-CIO's Samuel e-mailed to say that the committee had agreed to invite a labor person to testify -- eventually.