Charles Schumer, Senate Democrats and the economy

schumerTwo New York Times reporters, Eric Lipton and Raymond Hernandez, do a masterful job in today's paper of showing how the influential Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) helped fund Democrats' drive to win control of the Senate by encouraging policies that contributed to the collapse of the economy. They write:

An exceptional fund raiser a jackhammer, someone who knows him says, for whom no is the first step to yes, Mr. Schumer led the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for the last four years, raising a record $240 million while increasing donations from Wall Street by 50 percent. That money helped the Democrats gain power in Congress, elevated Mr. Schumers standing in his party and increased the industrys clout in the capital.But in building support, he has embraced the industrys free-market, deregulatory agenda more than almost any other Democrat in Congress, even backing some measures now blamed for contributing to the financial crisis. Other lawmakers took the lead on efforts like deregulating the complicated financial instruments called derivatives, which are widely seen as catalysts to the crisis. But Mr. Schumer, a member of the Banking and Finance Committees, repeatedly took other steps to protect industry players from government oversight and tougher rules, a review of his record shows. Over the years, he has also helped save financial institutions billions of dollars in higher taxes or fees. He succeeded in limiting efforts to regulate credit-rating agencies, for example, sponsored legislation that cut fees paid by Wall Street firms to finance government oversight, pushed to allow banks to have lower capital reserves and called for the revision of regulations to make corporations balance sheets more transparent.

Schumer's defense seems to be that as a senator from New York, it's his job to protect Wall Street, which drives the state's economy. But the article makes clear that he is also heavily motivated by the desire to raise funds for himself and other Senate Democrats.Schumer is a very popular figure where I come from - Brooklyn, where he once was my congressman. But given Schumer's role in driving the economy into the ground and his record on the various "life" issues discussed so frequently on dotCommonweal (he opposed the ban on "partial-birth" abortions; supports the death penalty and voted to limit Death Row appeals; and voted to authorize the war in Iraq), it would be interesting to hear just what recommends him.

Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York’s Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses. 

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