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Matt Stoller

Matt Stoller is a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute

December 3rd, 2011 11:52 AM

A Real Third Party? An Anti-Big Bank Republican? Yup.

Like many of you, I had mostly given up on electoral politics. One time I went through a log of Hank Paulson’s phone calls when he was Treasury Secretary, and then Tim Geithner’s phone calls when he was Treasury Secretary. And I realized that both men were talking to essentially the same people, even though they were ostensibly in different parties. When a switch in the party in power does not result in policy changes, there’s little point in electoral politics.

I’ve seen two new intriguing developments that are worth noting. The most interesting is former Democrat and ex-Mayor of Salt Lake City Rocky Anderson forming what he is calling “The Justice Party”. Now I love the Justice frame, because it really gets to the heart of what is missing from our technocratic overlords.

And Anderson is a maverick, but has held significant political office. And he has a bold message.

“The end game is changing public policy in the interest of the people of this country. It’s changing our government,” Anderson said. “This is about taking on the two corporatist, militarist parties and in the process bringing the people of this country together so they can see that their interests, by and large, are really aligned.”

Rocky is against American imperialism, and seems to be running against it. His policies fall into that general bucket of opposing the policing mechanisms domestically and abroad that enable more state and creditor control over the polity – he wants to end the war on drugs, reform the criminal justice system, and end for-profit prisons. My guess, though he hasn’t come out with any policies on the matter, he is probably heavily opposed to banking oligarchies and the corrupting influence of money in politics. Here’s the rationale for his run.

“All of us are being harmed while a very few are profiting enormously by the corruption, by bad public policy that they essentially purchase. These folks in Congress and the White House act as if they’re on retainer by Goldman Sachs, the insurance industry, with the coal and oil and gas industry, with the defense industry.”

In politics, the best way to tell what somebody is about is to see who he is willing to upset. Anderson is already being attacked bitterly by local Utah Democrats. Stay tuned.

The second interesting development is Republican Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman’s plan to end Too Big to Fail banks. It looks, well, real. Huntsman probably sees his only shot as positioning himself as the candidate able to deal with the economy should the Eurozone collapse in the next month. There are definitely some sharp and courageous advisors around him who helped him put this out.

The plan itself is a mix of GOP orthodoxy and smart tightly organized ideas about constraining mega-banks. His plan sets caps on bank size and leverage as a percentage of GDP, and implies that the US should consider ring-fencing commercial and investment banking along the lines of the UK. He attacks risk-weighting of assets, noting that risk-weighting causes an over-allocation in supposedly riskless sovereign debt such as that of Eurozone countries. The plan includes derivatives transparency, a repeal of Dodd-Frank, a stable dollar policy, and shutting down Fannie and Freddie. He also calls for a full investigation and settlement of the robo-signing problem.

This is a basic question of rule of law; in this country no one is above the law. There are also serious issues involving potential violations of the securities laws, particularly with regard to fair and accurate disclosure of the underlying loan contracts and property titles in mortgage-backed securities that were sold. If investors’ rights were abused, thisneeds to be addressed fully. We need a comprehensive settlement that puts all these issues behind us— but any such settlement must include full redress of all legal violations.

Huntsman has put out a marker. The notable aspect of this Presidential race is how little relationship the campaigns of the Republicans and President Obama bear to the real problems facing most voters and to the structural problems from the Eurozone crisis and the housing debt overhang. Normally in the Presidential race one talks about pressing issues. So far in 2012, not so much.

If Rocky Anderson gets serious and organized, and the Eurozone continues to unwind, the 2012 election may yet become an interesting contest where pressing problems are debated, not ignored.

You can reach Matt Stoller at stoller (at) gmail.com or follow him on Twitter at @matthewstoller.

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