Roll Call of Shame on “Too Big to Fail”

Future historians will look back on the financial crisis of the last couple years and wonder why Congress didn’t act sooner or more aggressively to prevent such a crisis from recurring.

Last week, by an astonishingly wide margin, the Senate voted down a bill sponsored by Sherrod Brown and Ted Kaufman that would have limited the size of financial institutions.

No more too big to fail, they proposed. Let’s chop them down to size before they bring the economy down with them once more. Their bill would have forced the six largest banks in the country to sell off part of their business, since it would have capped nondeposit liabilities of each bank at 2% of GDP.

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Well, the vote on “The Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010” was 61 against, 33 in favor. And get this: A whopping 27 Democratic Senators sided with the big banks on this crucial vote.

Here’s the roll call of shame:

Daniel Akaka

Max Baucus

Evan Bayh

Michael Bennet

Thomas Carper

Kent Conrad

Chris Dodd

Dianne Feinstein

Kirsten Gillibrand

Kay Hagan

Daniel Inouye

Tim Johnson

John Kerry

Amy Klobuchar

Herb Kohl

Mary Landrieu

Frank Lautenberg

Claire McCaskill

Robert Menendez

Bill Nelson

Ben Nelson

Jack Reed

Chuck Schumer

Jeanne Shaheen

Jon Tester

Mark Udall

Mark Warner

Several of these Senators, like Conrad and Tester, pretend to be progressive populists.

Schumer and Dodd pretend to be leaders on financial reform.

And John Kerry?

“Wall Street won and the American people lost,” said Mary Bottari, director of the Real Economy Project for the Center for Media and Democracy. The bill was “the single best way to prevent the growth of ‘too big to fail’ firms that threaten to collapse the global economy,” she said. And it was “the single best way to protect taxpayers from future bailouts.”

As Dick Durbin, who voted in favor of this legislation, said of Congress a while back: The banks “frankly own the place.”

They own it, and they subdivide it.

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

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