The biggest week for Wall Street banks since the big bailout
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Recently, Wall Street banks had their biggest week since the bailout in 2008. 

And just like the bailout, while big banks scored, ordinary Americans lost. 

First, the Senate voted to confirm Jay Clayton, Wall Street’s go-to lawyer, as the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission — the agency meant to police Wall Street. Clayton, who has built a career making Wall Street bankers richer and helping them worm their way through loopholes in consumer protection laws, is now set to ensure that Wall Street can’t take advantage of ordinary Americans. 

For some reason, that seems like a bad fit.

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Then, the House Financial Services Committee voted to approve the Financial CHOICE Act, which essentially dismantles all the financial protections put in place after the crisis, allowing banks to go back to their risky behavior that maximizes their profits while risking ordinary Americans’ investments.

 

The CHOICE Act is riddled with loopholes and regulatory rollbacks that amount to nothing more than a Wall Street wish list, which isn’t surprising, given that Trump has appointed enough former Wall Street executives to field a baseball team.

We’ve already tried financial de-regulation. Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush sponsored massive rollbacks of financial regulations, including some that had been in place since the Great Depression.

And what happened?

Nearly nine million jobs were lost. Household wealth in the U.S. fell by more than $19 trillion. And almost eight million families lost their homes due to foreclosures. 

A decade later, the American people are still on the road to recovery.

But what about Wall Street — how did they fare in the aftermath of the crisis?

What penalties did they receive for nearly unraveling the entire global economy? Thanks to Clayton, almost none. 

Nobody went to jail.

Nobody lost their jobs. Instead, Clayton helped Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs receive billions of taxpayer dollars that allowed them to continue business as usual. That bailout money was given to Wall Street on the condition that Wall Street banks would never again become “too big to fail.”

And those conditions were spelled out in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act — the very law Republicans are hell-bent on replacing.

Few believe Dodd-Frank is perfect, but it was a critical first step. Instead of building on that progress, Republicans want to do away with it altogether.

They want to go back to a system where Wall Street operates unchecked, where payday lenders can charge triple-digit interest rates on small-dollar loans and where the federal government no longer has the authority to shut down large, complex banks in an orderly manner without resorting to a taxpayer bailout.

And to help them reverse these critical consumer protections in Dodd-Frank, President Donald TrumpDonald TrumpManafort in Russian spotlight Russian bank owners sue BuzzFeed over publishing dossier Why global health investments are key ‘Making America Great’ MORE, with the help of Republicans and inexplicably even some Democrats in the Senate, have successfully made Clayton Wall Street’s chief regulator. 

And who exactly is Clayton?

Clayton is a man who’s built his entire career helping Wall Street beat the rap — guiding them on how best to avoid accountability, how to pocket the most bailout money and how to reach favorable settlements wherever possible.

Clayton is someone who has worked with a litany of shady corporations since the bailout: Ally Financial, in connection to a $25 billion settlement due to using illegal foreclosure tactics on American families; Volkswagen, which pled guilty to charges of cheating on emissions tests; Valeant, which is often accused of being the “Enron” of the pharmaceutical industry; and Deutsche Bank, which has been charged in a $10 billion Russian money-laundering scheme.

Clayton, the consummate Wall Street insider, who would have to recuse himself from voting to punish some of the biggest names on Wall Street because of his cozy relationship with them, will be the one in charge of policing Wall Street and preventing the next financial crisis.

Less than a decade removed from the most damaging and downright criminal financial crisis since the creation of the SEC, it is mind-boggling that the president would nominate someone so close to the very perpetrators of that crime. 

You don’t put a serial getaway driver in charge of the neighborhood watch, and you don’t put Clayton in charge of the SEC.

As Americans, we can’t stand for this. We can’t afford this. We can’t sit by and allow this administration to make way for the next financial crisis. If we do, we know what will happen. The richest one percent will get richer while working class Americans who could lose their homes, their pension funds, and their entire life savings will get poorer.

Since the election, progressives have mobilized. We’ve made ourselves heard at the Women’s March following Trump's inauguration, at the Tax March on Tax Day, at the March for Science, and at the People’s Climate March.

Donald Trump’s schemes to deregulate the financial system and make the rich richer is the next big fight for progressives. We can’t sit this one out, it’s too important. 

And Democrats, you can’t sit this one out either. Now is the time to step up and prove whose side you are on.

President Trump and his Wall Street advisers are attempting nothing short of a hostile takeover of our economy. 

With Clayton at the helm, Wall Street gets another free pass. 

That might be good news for Trump and billionaires that litter his cabinet, but it sure isn’t good news for the vast majority of Americans who work hard every day to give their children a brighter future.

 

Jeff Weaver is the president of Our Revolution, which seeks to revitalize American democracy, empower progressive leaders and elevate the political consciousness.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.