state of the onion

So, this evening was the 2012 edition of the State of the Union address.

There is always quite a lot that can be discussed at length in the President’s State of the Union address. I’m not getting into it at length here. There was a particular moment that was stunning, and an extraordinary indicator of things.

It has become normal fare to have a series of points throughout the President’s speech where you have the political theater moments of people standing up in little short standing ovations, especially if it’s easy applause kind of material that fits some thing or another that gets easy approval from some portion of the gathered public servants.

But there was a moment that really said something.

President Obama got to this part:

And I will not go back to the days when Wall Street was allowed to play by its own set of rules.  The new rules we passed restore what should be any financial system’s core purpose:  Getting funding to entrepreneurs with the best ideas, and getting loans to responsible families who want to buy a home, start a business, or send a kid to college.

So if you’re a big bank or financial institution, you are no longer allowed to make risky bets with your customers’ deposits.  You’re required to write out a “living will” that details exactly how you’ll pay the bills if you fail – because the rest of us aren’t bailing you out ever again.  And if you’re a mortgage lender or a payday lender or a credit card company, the days of signing people up for products they can’t afford with confusing forms and deceptive practices are over.  Today, American consumers finally have a watchdog in Richard Cordray with one job: To look out for them. 

We will also establish a Financial Crimes Unit of highly trained investigators to crack down on large-scale fraud and protect people’s investments.  Some financial firms violate major anti-fraud laws because there’s no real penalty for being a repeat offender.  That’s bad for consumers, and it’s bad for the vast majority of bankers and financial service professionals who do the right thing.  So pass legislation that makes the penalties for fraud count. 

But where we get the really interesting bit is not just the following bit, but what the reaction was in the chamber where the combined membership of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate sat-

And tonight, I am asking my Attorney General to create a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorneys general to expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis. This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans. 

I thought, well about fucking time.

As applause moments go, this should have triggered an explosive standing ovation that roared on endlessly.

The reaction of the elected representatives of the people?

Nothing.

Stone faced, frozen, rictus mask silence.

What does this tell you?

 

 

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