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Imperium Watch: A Tale of Two Senators

Scott Brown and Bernie Sanders have different ideas about the meaning of public service.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Massachusetts Senator Scott "Just a Regular Guy" Brown believes in loyalty—to the banking and financial services interests that swept him to Capitol Hill on a magic carpet of cash. Brown was one of three Republican senators (the other two were Maine's Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins) who joined Democrats to vote for the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill.

However, Brown demanded and got elimination of a provision in the bill that would have taxed banks to raise $19 billion to pay for its implementation. He also succeeded in weakening a reform, called the Volcker amendment, that would have prohibited banks from certain kinds of risky investing (such as owning hedge funds) with money guaranteed by the government.

Meanwhile, according to the Boston Globe, between the middle of June and July 4, Brown got $140, 000 from banks and investment firms and their officers. The average donation by that industry to Republican senators during that time was $28,000.

A different kind of loyalty—loyalty to average constituents—has been demonstrated lately by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who filibustered for eight and a half hours December 10 on the pending tax bill that would preserve tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. A sample: "This nation has a record-breaking, $13.8 trillion national debt at the same time as the middle class is collapsing and poverty is increasing. It seems to me to be unconscionable, unconscionable for my conservative friends and for everybody else in this country to be driving up this already too-high national debt by giving tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires who don't need it and in some cases, Mr. President, don't even want it."

More from the speech, nicknamed the "FiliBernie": "For my friends, my Republican colleagues, to tell me that we need more tax cuts for the very rich, because that's going to create jobs, that's what trickle down economics is all about. What I would say to them is: Ya had your chance! It failed! In case you don't know, losing 600,000 private sector jobs in eight years is not good. That's very, very bad. &We don't need to look at that movie again. We saw it. It stunk! It was a very bad movie!"

While Sanders was still fulminating, the Washington Post offered an online poll asking readers whether the speech was a "waste of time" or "proved an important point" (a third choice was, "Who is Bernie Sanders?"). Of nearly 9,000 responding, 87 percent said the socialist senator's oratory "proved an important point."

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