News & Politics

“Independent” Harold Ford goes to bat for the finance industry


At the very least, you have to give Merrill Lynch Vice Chairman and putative Senate candidate Harold Ford points for creative thinking. Ford told the Wall Street Journal on Friday that he sees himself as a political independent to the right of his party in the model of Robert F. Kennedy, doesn’t believe Kirsten Gillibrand is an incumbent Senator, and thinks taxpayers deserve to be reimbursed for “some” of the money they lost bailing out the finance industry, as long as the money doesn’t come from taxing the finance industry.

Ford, who initially ran away from his conservative – he prefers the word “independent” – voting record in an attempt to woo New York liberals, has been on a contrarian tour of the media since the Democratic loss in Massachusetts.

What New York needs, it seems, is a Democrat like Bill Clinton, who is Harold Ford’s idea of a Democrat. Ford’s supporters are not-quite-suggesting Ford might have or be able to get Clinton’s support, largely using quotes from 2006, when Schumer was also supporting him.

Anyway, except for the independent thing and the evocative parallels to RFK that Teddy was _really_ not feeling in the case of Clinton, Harold Ford is just like Bill Clinton. And what Bill Clinton would do, apparently, is give businesses a tax holiday, lower corporate taxes, eliminate the estate tax, oppose a carbon tax, and freeze the capital gains tax at its current level until 2012.

What this version of Bill Clinton would definitely _not_ do is make hedge fund managers pay the same income tax presumably you, and definitely I, pay on the money we get paid for doing our jobs. Currently, they’ve structured their payouts so that their rather spectacular incomes are taxed at the lower capital gains tax rate. The House wants to do something about that. Harold Ford wants none of it. He thinks we should be willing to compromise, and let them pay slightly more than they’re paying now, but not as much as we are. Srsly, be reasonable.

He also opposes President Obama’s proposed fee on financial institutions to repay the money we’re expected to lose on TARP, which as you may recall was taxpayers covering the losing bets of people who weren’t very good, or responsible, at their obscenely well-paid jobs. Jobs which the people in decision-making capacities mostly still have. This part I think you should really read in its entirety:

Conceptually, the president is right. He’s trying to curb the excessive risk taking that occurred without discouraging all risk taking and entrepreneurship. And yes, taxpayers deserve to recoup some of these losses. But it’s hard to support what he’s laid out. The details are scant and it doesn’t add up. I would support no bill that does harm to New York’s financial industry.

Senator Gillibrand, who the Journal suggests Ford characterized as an insufficiently business-friendly “distaff version” of Chuck Schumer (yeah, we’re pretty much down the rabbit hole on this one) has issues with Ford’s take on things. Ford, she says, is “revealing just how wrong he is for everyday New Yorkers. This is all about who we fight for. Harold Ford is advocating for more of the same failed policies that favor only the wealthy and the powerful big corporations, while I am fighting to create good-paying jobs for New York families and help small businesses that are truly struggling in the difficult economy.”

For the record, he’s not as much just like Senator Moynihan and Senator Clinton as he is like RFK and President Clinton, but he’s like them too. Well, except for the thing where pretty much Hillary’s entire staff is working for Gillibrand.

Meanwhile, as he plans to single-mindedly care for our interests, he’s on a crash course to find out what they are. It seems to be going well. He knows how big the budget is now.

Are we having fun yet?

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