“Hey ninety eight point six, it’s good to have you back again.” That was the refrain from a 1966 hit song by The Bystanders.
Over the course of his two years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Ted Budd sided with Wall Street 73 out of 74 times, if you combine his floor votes with his Financial Services Committee votes. That’s 98.6 percent.
Budd’s voting record would have been pretty typical before the financial crisis, when Congress gave Wall Street almost everything they wanted. It’s not good to have that back again.
That’s why most Americans see Washington as a swamp. Politicians say they’ll go to Congress to stand up to powerful special interests. But once they get there, too many bow from the waist in the presence of lobbyists.
Such shameless subservience by Washington politicians is exactly why we had a financial crisis a decade ago and the worst recession since the Great Depression. That’s why we’ll probably have another financial crisis in the next few years. And that’s why millions of honest working and middle-class families are trapped in predatory debt because they lost their job, got divorced, or got sick and had to borrow to get by.
Budd voted to strip the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (the “CFPB”) of the funds and the independence to protect consumers. The CFPB is all that stands between most Americans and crooked mortgage lenders, payday lenders, and credit card companies that stick consumers with sneaky fees and charges, disclosed only in tiny print and legalese.
Does Budd think people just need to be more careful about what they sign? Try going to a bank with a pad of paper or a laptop computer and saying you need to borrow money but want to negotiate the contract. Good luck with that. You borrow on their terms or not at all.
In rural North Carolina, manufactured homes are just about the only housing that many families can afford. Loans to buy manufactured homes have been filled with excessive fees, high interest, and kickbacks to salesmen who betray the trust of their customers. Budd voted to strip manufactured home buyers of consumer protections.
And he voted to let the biggest banks use taxpayer-insured deposits for proprietary trading in risky derivatives. Do you know what that last sentence means? Don’t feel bad, hardly anyone does. That’s how Wall Street banks get away with it, and how Washington politicians get away with letting them.
Derivatives are a big reason we had the financial crisis a decade ago and why we’re vulnerable to another. Most derivatives are just gambling with other people’s money and are worse than useless to the economy. The banks say derivatives regulation “kills jobs.” Do you know anyone who works in a derivatives factory?
Budd does what Wall Street wants for the same reason other Washington politicians do. In just two years, he’s collected $400,000 in campaign money from Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Citigroup and a long list of other financial interests. The American Bankers Association, the mouthpiece of the big banks, is running TV ads for Budd.
Does Budd get those contributions because he has now acquired a sophisticated understanding of the world of finance? Oh hell no.
I served on the Financial Services Committee for a decade. I would talk with Wall Street’s lobbyists before the committee meetings to hear their side. Their arguments were often obvious nonsense. But then when the committee met, member after member puffed themselves up and parroted the industry’s talking points almost word for word. In the back of the room, the lobbyists nodded with solemn approval.
Since I left Congress in 2013, I’ve testified as a witness before the Committee a couple of times in favor of consumer protection. I thought I would get drenched in slobber from members blowing wet kisses to the lobbyists who sat behind me, some of them representing the worst bottom-feeders in consumer finance.
The Wall Street Flunkies Project calls out members of Congress who take big campaign money from banks and financial firms and use their powers to help those companies “enrich themselves at the expense of society as a whole.” The project has identified 13 members of Congress as “Major Flunkies” and another 19 as “Minor Flunkies.”
Budd only made the list of Minor Flunkies. He’s subservient enough to be a Major Flunky, but he doesn’t wield enough influence to make the cut. Budd is not a leader in Congress and certainly not an independent thinker.
Still, he’s a sure vote for Wall Street. That’s all that Wall Street really wants from our elected representatives.
Brad Miller represented North Carolina in Congress from 2003 to 2013 and served on the House Financial Services Committee. He was one of the principal authors of the consumer protections enacted after the financial crisis.