The Invisible Primary

From Jim Hightower, this is for everyone who still thinks the Democrats are somehow “different” from Republicans in anything but name.

The top presidential candidates of both political parties are meeting with voters in a key primary, promising to help them on the issues they care about.

Are they in Iowa? No. New Hampshire? Uh-uh. California? Nowhere near it. So, where?

Wall Street.

While regular citizens won?t start voting on the presidential contenders until January, an intensive, closed-door primary has already been taking place inside the confines of investment banks, hedge funds, and other financial institutions in Manhattan. Reporters are not allowed in, candidates don?t issue press releases about their appearances, and there is no disclosure about what the presidential wannabes pledge to these elite banking interests in order to gain their financial backing. It?s strictly a private campaign ? albeit with enormous public impact.

Bear Stearns, for example, has had its own presidential tour, summoning seven major candidates to its Midtown headquarters for exclusive presentations and Q&A sessions with its managing partners. If you?re just a plain ol? voter, you?d be lucky to get a handshake with any of these aspirants, but this financial conglomerate can command its own little t?te-?-t?te with Romney, Clinton, Giuliani, Obama, Thompson, and others.

This information comes from no less a rad-lib source than Business Week. Of the top tier candidates in either party, only John Edwards has so far refused to make the trek to New York to sit at the feet of the Wise Men of Wall Street and be told what it is they want to see from them before the money flows. According to BW, what they want to see is a presidential candidate willing to continue the corporate-friendly policies of the Bush Administration – and add to them.

With the horse-trading between Wall Street and the candidates in full swing, some key issues are moving to the foreground. Perhaps the most important: free trade. Global markets have become far more prominent in the past few years, and financial types tend to believe that fewer impediments mean higher living standards for everyone. “Wall Street wants a barrier-free global marketplace,” says Robert S. Nichols, president of the Financial Services Forum, a trade group for investment banks. “[It] is very concerned about protectionism.”

Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates (which manages $170 billion) and a backer of Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), says he wants a President who will work first “to make the pie bigger and then think about how to divide the pie.” Robert Wolf, CEO of UBS Americas (UBS ) and a supporter of Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.), says his candidate understands commerce and is promoting trade agreements that benefit the U.S. “both as a consumer and a provider of goods and services.” Clinton was clearly fine-tuning her trade position in a lament on the Senate floor on Feb. 28 about U.S. government debt held by China and Japan. “How,” she asked rhetorically, “can we negotiate fair, pro-American trade agreements…when we sit across the negotiating table not only from our competitor but our banker as well?”

Among other monstrosities, this likely explains the support for abominable trade deals with Colombia, Peru, and Panama insisted on by the DLC/BD Alliance and therefore by the leadership, including Charlie Rangel, who ought to know better. If Wall Street doesn’t get what it wants in exchange, campaign money could dry up. It’s blackmail, pure and simple, but nobody’s questioning it (except Edwards) because, you know, that’s how the system works. Right?

Only the trade agreements Obama is supporting DON’T “benefit” the US. They benefit corporations. In the case of the Panama deal, it mainly benefits the corporatocracy by making corporate money-laundering and tax evasion legal. Hard to see how that benefits the country at all.

But trade deals that aid corporate profits at the expense of the nation’s economic health are but the beginning of their demands. They want “more uniformity in trading and accounting regulations”, which may safely be translated as “removal of regulations” or at the very least removing any teeth they may have a la the disemboweling of Sarbanes-Oxley after complaints from these very same people that the regs were too “onerous”, too much work, and “too expensive”.

And then there’s those pesky hedge funds. They are, to all intents and purposes, unregulated. Wall Street, concerned about the noises Barney Frank is making about changing that “financial freedom”, wants the Congress to forget all that nonsense.

Another contentious issue is hedge fund regulation. The Street wants Congress, which has been holding hearings on the secretive investment pools, to avoid the temptation of imposing heavy burdens that could prompt funds to move overseas. Some candidates have weighed in already. Obama co-sponsored a bill earlier this year that would increase reporting requirements for hedge funds. But he hasn’t called for full-out Securities & Exchange Commission regulation.

And now he probably won’t.

The very fact that Democrats and Republicans are making the same pilgrimages to the same places to bow before the same people who, as Hightower says, “brought us Enron, NAFTA, offshoring, exorbitant credit card fees, dependency on oil, pension collapses, and other ‘smart decisions'”, ought to tell us – if nothing else did, and plenty is – that the Donkey party is as beholden to the same corporate, anti-American forces as the Pubs.

As a nation, it is clear we can expect no help from that quarter.

2 Responses to “The Invisible Primary”

  1. Laura says:

    Nice article. I had heard a couple weeks back that Jim Cramer, CNBC excitable stock guy, did not like John Edwards, that Wall Street did not like John Edwards. I’m not sure what that meant exactly, but I wonder if it might not tie in here…

  2. mick says:

    I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.

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