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Jim Webb Gave It a Good Try

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 18:56:12 PM EDT

Our senior senator, Jim Webb, has proven many times that he is a populist in the best sense of the word. He has continued to advocate for those of us who are definitely not part of the social elite, whether we are veterans, laborers, or hard-pressed members of the middle class.

Not long ago, Jim Webb joined with Barbara Boxer of California to introduce an amendment to recent "tax extenders" legislation, which was designed to give taxpayers a chance to recoup a small bit of the money they provided to bail out the executives who got the global economy in the mess we are in.

The Webb-Boxer amendment would have provided for a one-time 50 percent tax on bonuses in excess of $400,000 paid to executives of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and any other financial institution that received at least $5 billion through TARP. The "fairness" tax would apply only for the excess amount of the bonuses (and not on basic income) earned in 2009 and compensated in 2010.

As Sen. Webb said, the amendment "at a time of huge deficit spending...would recover $3.5 billion to $10 billion" for us taxpayers.

Want to guess where that perfectly reasonable idea went?

Elaine in Roanoke :: Jim Webb Gave It a Good Try
In an op-ed in The Washington Post on Sunday, Sen. Webb described the mood in Washington last fall as the severity of the financial crisis became apparent.

He said, "On Sept. 19, 2008, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke convened a conference call with the Democratic caucus of the U.S. Senate. We were starkly told that the liquidity of our financial system was frozen by a plethora of toxic assets and that if we did not immediately appropriate $700 billion the world economy would, within weeks, descend into a cataclysmic free-fall.

"Ten days of frantic briefings and negotiations followed. I talked with people across the philosophical spectrum and heard conflicting advice, but the bottom line was: The crisis is real. On Oct. 1, 2008, the Senate voted to fund the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP)."

Webb noted that he voted for the rescue legislation after being assured that the Senate would "examine excessive executive compensation, work to re-regulate the financial sector and include the American taxpayer on the upside of any recovery."

We now know that another depression caused by the greed of the wealthy was averted, but it came at a terrible cost for the rest of us. Millions of jobs were wiped out, personal savings and retirement account were severely damaged.

Jim Webb simply felt that "the time has come to include taxpayers in the rewards of a recovery that would never have happened without their money." So, he and Barbara Boxer offered their one-year tax on excessive bonuses.

It took no time at all for the Wall Street and the banking industry lobbying machine to gear up to fight the Webb-Boxer amendment. Consequently, the amendment was not even allowed a vote on the Senate floor.

In his op-ed Sen. Webb explained why the amendment was sure to lose. "This issue, like others involving true economic fairness, is political poison. Voting in favor of a 'windfall profits' tax, however narrowly defined, incurs the wrath of key political donors. But voting against it would increase the anger of working people who know they are not being fairly treated. And so, after a bit of political hand-wringing, the issue disappeared from view."

In the political atmosphere of today, Jim Webb and Barbara Boxer tried to give the Democrats a guaranteed way to appeal to taxpayers who are angry about the TARP bailout of the people who got us into this fix in the first place.

Unfortunately, the way we fund our "democracy" doomed the effort from the start.

As the right-wing cabal on the Supreme Court reinforced in its recent ruling, money governs this political system. It will unless and until we finally get public financing of elections.

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