Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said something odd today, telling his Twitter followers, “It may surprise you to know that I completely agree with Paul Krugman’s column” in today’s New York Times.
Actually, yes, it would surprise me, since McCain’s record points in a very different direction.
Krugman makes the case that in the wake of the 2008 crash, bankers have had it way too easy.
This principle was on display during the final months of the Bush administration, when a huge lifeline for the banks was made available with few strings attached. It was equally on display in the early months of the Obama administration, when President Obama reneged on his campaign pledge to “change our bankruptcy laws to make it easier for families to stay in their homes.” And the principle is still operating right now, as federal officials press state attorneys general to accept a very modest settlement from banks that engaged in abusive mortgage practices.
Why the kid-gloves treatment? Money and influence no doubt play their part; Wall Street is a huge source of campaign donations, and agencies that are supposed to regulate banks often end up serving them instead. But officials have also argued at each point of the process that letting banks off the hook serves the interests of the economy as a whole.
Now, McCain may like this column, or at least pretend to, because Krugman casts a wide net against an unpopular financial industry.
But McCain has a lot of nerve presenting himself as a consumer ally, supporting a liberal column calling for tougher crackdowns on Wall Street. It was, after all, a year ago this week that the Senate voted on a major Wall Street reform bill, bringing new safeguards and layers of accountability to the system. McCain knew the legislation would pass, but voted against it anyway. Indeed, McCain was so opposed to the legislation, he tried to prevent the Senate from even voting on it at all.
Indeed, as recently as May, McCain joined a group of Republican senators in writing to the White House (pdf), insisting they would block any nominee to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau until the agency was stripped of at least some of its powers.
In other words, McCain wants to make it easier for the financial industry to get away with recklessness and anti-consumer misdeeds, and he’s willing to abuse Senate rules until he gets his way doing Wall Street’s bidding.
So, sure, I’m surprised that McCain liked Krugman’s column. But here’s the follow-up question for the senator: did you read it?