Tuesday night was exciting insomuch as Barack Obama finally seems to recognize that, to govern effectively, he has to have a realistic understanding of how the American government works and accept that, as lousy and stupid as Congress is, they’re you’re lousy and stupid Congress and you love them, self-tanner and all.
One standout proposition, of course, was a Special Team whose primary job would be investigating and prosecuting dirty rotten criminals in America’s financial sector. According to the SOTU speech, this team would be armed with number-crunching nerds and their burly former-wrestler sidekicks who would stop at nothing to ensure that every last white collar hussy who caused the financial crisis met with swift and earnest justice: a justice that, until now, Barack Obama has been less likely than any of his predecessors to dole out.
That was on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Obama Administration officials reportedly went back to work on a settlement deal with Wall Street banks to end investigations into foreclosure fraud and grant banks involved in the mortgage crisis civil immunity.
For months, a massive federal settlement with big Wall Street banks over their role in the mortgage crisis has been in the offing. The rumored details have always given progressives heartburn: civil immunity, no investigations, inadequate help for homeowners and a small penalty for the banks. Now, on the eve President Obama’s State of the Union address—in which he plans to further advance a populist message against big money and income inequality—the deal may be here, and it’s every bit as ugly as progressives feared.
The Associated Press reports that a proposed deal could be announced within weeks. Five banks—Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank and Ally Financial (formerly GMAC)—would pay the federal government $25 billion. About $17 billion would be used to reduce the principal that some struggling homeowners owe, $5 billion more would be used for future federal and state programs and $3 billion would be used to help homeowners refinance at 5.25 percent. Civil immunity would be granted to the banks for any role in foreclosure fraud, and there would be no investigations.
No wonder the DNC stopped courting Occupy Wall Street months ago. As it turns out, it wasn’t because their camps were infested with disease-carrying vermin and homeless mental health patients. It was because they were secretly trying to stab anyone looking for a just and honest end to the financial crisis right in the back, with plenty of time to spare before they have to vote. The deal is a doozey, too, possibly allowing banks to pay their fines with their investors’ funds.
Granted, this is from The Nation, which provides news chiefly to the kind of people who once thought the U.S.S.R. was a “nice place to be” in the 1980s (and probably still do), but there’s something comforting in the open hostility to, and sudden jolt of recognition that, Obama is full of un-kept promises and very little change. Every time a liberal loses his faith in his bumper stickers, an angel gets its wings. Or Mitt Romney sheds a tear. Whichever is likelier.