Cross-posted at WinningProgressive

When it comes right down to it, politics is about priorities – namely, what issues does a candidate or party spend its limited time and capital on while in power. By looking at the goals and issues that a candidate or party has prioritized working on in the past, you can often get a better sense of how they are going to govern in the future than if you just listen to their campaign rhetoric and promises.

For example, George W. Bush campaigned as a “compassionate conservative,” but once in office he tried to privatize Social Security, invaded another country on the basis of lies, provided tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy elite, and worked to continue to deregulatory zeal that had weakened our government over the past thirty years. President Obama, meanwhile, has focused his efforts on stabilizing and improving the economy, reforming health care, re-regulating Wall Street, increasing college affordability, and curbing bad consumer practices of credit card companies, payday lenders, and other financial institutions.

Even if what was achieved on each of those issues during President Obama’s first two years is not everything we progressives wanted, the most critical distinction is what issues were prioritized to be addressed under each administration. Under Obama, it was reining in health insurance companies, Wall Street, and questionable credit card company practices, expanding health care coverage and student loans, and working to overcome and lighten the blow of the Bush Recession. Under Bush, it was war, tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation, and privatization. Plainly, we are more likely to achieve progressive goals under the first priority list rather than the latter.

I started thinking about this issue of priorities today when reading an article in the New York Times today about Ohio Democratic Attorney General Richard Cordray’s work to hold Wall Street accountable for the economic debacle that they created. Faced with widespread foreclosures, declines in pensions, and increases in unemployment due to the casino-like atmosphere that overtook Wall Street, Cordray has sought to recover funds from the Wall Street banksters whose fraudulent practices created those problems. And Mr. Cordray has been successful. As the Times explains:

Mr. Cordray in two years in office has demonstrated a willingness to sue early and often, filing lawsuits against global financial houses, rating agencies, subprime lenders and foreclosure scammers. He has wrested about $2 billion so far, a string of gilded pelts: a $475 million Merrill Lynch settlement, $400 million from Marsh & McLennan and $725 million from the American International Group.
. . . .

His office has returned money to investors, pension funds, schools and cities. And he has directed millions to agencies fighting foreclosure.

And other Democratic Attorneys General – including Lisa Madigan in Illinois, Tom Miller in Iowa, Roy Cooper in North Carolina, and Martha Coakley in Massachusetts – have joined the effort to hold Wall Street accountable.

On the other side of the aisle, Republican Attorneys General have had other priorities. In particular, 21 Republican AGs (along with a Democratic AG from Louisiana) have brought a series of borderline frivolous lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the health care reform legislation enacted by the Democrats. Apparently, these folks would rather fight legislation that made pre-existing condition exclusions and retroactive policy cancellations illegal, and will make affordable health insurance available to another 32 million Americans, than to work to hold Wall Street accountable.

Do you support Democrats’ efforts to prioritize taking on Wall Street rather than doing the bidding of insurance companies? If so, write a letter to your local newspaper editor, find your local Democratic candidate to canvass or phonebank for, and talk to your family, friends, and neighbors about your priorities in the November election.

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