Cantwell's Late Crackdown

Our junior senator is applauded for Monday-morning-quarterbacking the financial crisis.

It's a regular lovefest for Sen. Maria Cantwell, who recently teamed up with Sen. John McCain to try to re-regulate Wall Street. A week ago, Tina Brown's infotainment site The Daily Beast declared Cantwell one of a dozen "rising political stars." The rave specifically cited her work to bring back the Glass-Steagall Act, which would separate commercial banks—and their federally insured deposits—from investment banks. And this week, seattlepi.com's Joel Connelly (who's always had a soft spot for Cantwell) fawned over the senator and her proposal in a column headlined "Cantwell Takes On Wall Street Fat Cats." Whether the revival of a Depression-era banking law would be good or bad for the economy and taxpayers overall is for the experts to decide. But it sure seems as though 2008's financial catastrophe wasn't caused by an insufficient number of laws but by a decade of regulators not bothering to enforce the rules we've got, and of people like Alan Greenspan continuing to hand the housing market low-interest speed even as it hyperventilated. Where was Cantwell during all that? Where were her demands for more regulatory oversight? Scroll through the senator's list of statements and accomplishments in the area of Tax/Banking/Finance on her Web site, and the first expression of concern about Wall Street you find dates from September 2008, after everything had already collapsed. Prior to that, Cantwell seems to have devoted a good bit of her legislative and political energy in the finance arena to making sure that residents of Washington were allowed to deduct sales-tax payments from their federal income tax—a break that benefits fat cats the most, since they buy the most stuff and pay the steepest income-tax rate. Of course, plenty of people—investors, reporters, homebuyers—failed to see the looming disaster that finally came to a head in 2008. But it now seems as if Cantwell's being celebrated for something she might have learned out at campaign manager Ron Dotzauer's ranch: corralling a horse that's already left the barn.

 
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