The Common Good

The Epic Capitol Hill Fail You Didn’t Hear About

As the finger-pointing begins over the supercommittee debacle, another epic Capitol Hill fail flew under the radar last week.  

Many of us in the United States, including the Occupy movement, are hopping mad about Wall Street's role in driving the world economy off a cliff three years ago — but now Congress is squeezing the very people entrusted with keeping that economic train wreck from happening again.

Apparently Congress — which last year made some ground rules to keep Wall Street from churning out toxic assets and leaving the 99 percent holding the bag — doesn't want to, you know, pay for all the extra work it asked the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission to do. A bill Congress passed last week agreed to flatline their budget, basically asking civil servants to make bricks without straw.

What’s more, the bill requires the CFTC to spend a quarter of its budget on long-term information technology, virtually ensuring the agency will have to cut staff just when it needs them most. The House negotiator on the House-Senate committee that hashes out budget deals told Politico he welcomes the fact that [the IT carveout] maximizes his own leverage over the CFTC’s rule making.

Advocates are outraged. It's "a real travesty that Congress would place the world economy in danger again," according to Dave Kane, a Catholic activist who helps put together the Stop Gambling on Hunger.

"Not funding the CFTC is like taking the police off the streets in a high-crime area, which is what Wall Street is," is how smart cookie Dennis Kelleher of Better Markets put it. “Risky trading in dark markets is highly profitable to Wall Street and very expensive for every other person in America. They got billions in bonuses, and we got the bill for trillions of dollars to clean up their mess. The only way to prevent them for doing that again is to make sure that the CFTC has the funds to do their job.”

Time for #OccupyCongress, maybe?

Elizabeth Palmberg is an associate editor of Sojourners.


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