Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Bankruptcy Bill - A Missed Opportunity

Whom does the Democratic Party serve? Where was the party during the runup to Tuesday's cloture vote on the bankruptcy bill?

Never mind what Democratic senators themselves could have been thinking as they assisted Republicans in ending debate on the measure. How could the party itself not seize this issue as an opportunity to draw an electric blue line between themselves and Republicans on core party values? If protecting consumers from rapacious corporations is not a core Democratic value, then there are no Democratic values.

Neither the press release page nor the blog of the Democratic National Committee website contains a single mention of S. 256 R.S., those 134 pages of lightly varnished venality known as The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005.

However, don't miss Chairman Dean's courageous statement in recognition of International Women's Day!

"If it were not for Social Security, over half of America's senior women would live in poverty. Democrats will not allow George W. Bush and his Washington Republicans to cut the guaranteed benefits that so many women depend on. Instead we are working to strengthen Social Security for future generations.
See also the self-congratulatory note about Chairman Dean's fundraising prowess.

Washington, DC – The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has raised a record $3.4 million in the three weeks since Governor Howard Dean was first elected DNC Chair. This is more than double the amount raised when compared to the same time period in 2001 - the first year following the last Presidential election.
This is, indeed, an impressive three-week haul of dough. Much props.

But, why does the DNC devote precious web space to patting itself on the back over fundraising while saying not a word about one of the vilest pieces of legislation ever to float across the Potomac?

Could fundraising itself be at least part of the answer?

It is impossible to read the minds and hearts of Democratic Party officials. Reading campaign finance data from the 2004 election cycle is another matter.

To be sure, Republicans raised more money from the financial services & credit industry than did Democrats in 2004. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 64 percent of this sector's political spending went to Republicans. However, the seemingly lopsided nature of the industry's giving seems not quite so inequitable when you consider the sums involved.

The sector identified by CRP as Finance/Credit Companies donated a total of $7,804,530 in 2004. The Republican take was $4,964.751. This leaves Democrats with $2,829,700. It might be less than what the GOP received, but it is still a lot of money.

It is difficult to imagine that the Finance/Credit Companies industry would make such investments without any expectation that they would yield returns. As the bankruptcy bill sails toward success, one imagines the industry considers its donations money well-spent.

Perhaps the Democrats who helped clear the way for this bill truly believe that this measure amounts to sound public policy. Maybe they oppose the bill, and intend to vote against it, but believe it deserves a chance to succeed or fail on its own merits.

Whatever the motives of Democratic lawmakers, however, there is no excuse for the silence of their party. As an institution, the Democratic Party must know and assert what it stands for. It must also know what it stands against. In light of current events, it seems fair to wonder if the party leadership has a clue either way.