Speaking of pallin’ around with terrorists, Harold Meyerson notes the well-known financial terrorist Phil Gramm is quite close to McCain. Kissin’ close, if fact.
But if the McCain people want to rummage through presidential candidates’ associations, real or imagined, to turn up figures who threaten to pull down this proud republic, they should begin in-house. Chief among those to whom responsibility attaches for the financial crisis that is plunging the nation into recession is former Texas senator Phil Gramm, McCain’s own economic guru.
Gramm was always Wall Street’s man in the Senate. As chairman of the Senate Banking Committee during the Clinton administration, he consistently underfunded the Securities and Exchange Commission and kept it from stopping accounting firms from auditing corporations with which they had conflicts of interest. Gramm’s piece de resistance came on Dec. 15, 2000, when he slipped into an omnibus spending bill a provision called the Commodity Futures Modernization Act (CFMA), which prohibited any governmental regulation of credit default swaps, those insurance policies covering losses on securities in the event they went belly up. As the housing bubble ballooned, the face value of those swaps rose to a tidy $62 trillion. And as the housing bubble burst, those swaps became a massive pile of worthless paper, because no government agency had required the banks to set aside money to back them up.
The CFMA also prohibited government regulation of the energy-trading market, which enabled Enron to nearly bankrupt the state of California before bankrupting itself.
The problem with this exercise, of course, is that Gramm’s relationship to McCain is not comparable to the relationships that Ayers or Wright have with Obama. The idea that either Ayers or Wright would have any impact on the workings of an Obama administration is nonsensical. But Gramm and McCain do have an enduring political and economic alliance. McCain chaired Gramm’s short-lived presidential campaign in 1996; Gramm is co-chair of McCain’s current effort. McCain has not repudiated reports that Gramm is on the shortlist to become Treasury secretary if McCain is elected, even after Gramm labeled America “a nation of whiners.”
Will Obama mention Phil Gramm in the debate tonight? Keating is one thing, but Gramm is still closer, albeit just as corrupt.