Himes: A Wall Street Democrat’s Take on OWS, Compromise

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

There’s just three weeks to go for the supercommitee in Congress to come up with a debt-cutting deal or trigger $1.5 trillion in automatic cuts beginning in 2013.  

Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT4) is among at least 100 members of the House – both Democrats and Republicans – who are still making a push for an even bigger deal. In a letter the lawmakers will release today, they’re calling for the supercommittee to slash $4 trillion from the federal debt over ten years with both new tax revenue and changes to entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.

A New Centrist Coalition?

Talking to The Brian Lehrer Show on Wednesday, Himes called it an answer to the “uncompromising rhetoric” of the budget battles over the last year. It’s also an answer to the polls, which have shown an overwhelming and deep sense of frustration with Washington.

The point is, you’ve actually got more people here on Capitol Hill willing to compromise than maybe you might believe if you just watched cable news...Anybody who is listening to their constituents knows that is what the American people want. The activist wings of the two parties don’t want that. They want just to be uncompromising, to fight. However, I think the vast bulk of Americans are saying, guys, you’ve got to come together. We’ve got a crisis.

And after all the studies and task forces and proposals, Himes said now is the time for backup. Because while President Obama continues to tour the country to press his message about how legislative action can’t wait, Himes said simple civics dictates that the decision-making – and political risks – will be taken by the twelve lawmakers on the supercommittee.

The reality is that right now, the president of the United States does not hold nearly as much power with respect to where we go in the next ten years than the twelve members of the supercommittee do.

On Occupy Wall Street and Obama

A former Goldman Sachs banker and member of the House Financial Services Committee, Himes is also giving a little backup to the politically unpopular banks, which he acknowledged, “may be the one group of people out there with lower approval than the United States Congress.”

If I can sort of set aside the rhetoric and the anger to remind people that we need a safe and vibrant financial services industry, that’s what I try to do day to day, and that’s where I keep my focus.

And that puts him at odds with the Occupy Wall Street protesters – at least in part.

It’s hard to know what they want. If they want more regulation of the derivatives market, and frankly I haven’t heard that on Occupy Wall Street, I’m with them 100 percent on that. if they want less exploitation of consumers through credit cards and shady loans, 100 percent. If their answer is that Wall Street should simply go away, and that we shouldn’t have a competitive financial services industry in this country – and I don’t know that they’re saying that either – I don’t agree with that.

But if the primary demand is to put new limits on the influence of money in American elections and to reverse the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, Himes said he’s right on board.

Now you’re really into something that I would like to not do any compromise on, which is generally the topic is the permeation of our system with money. It’s corrupting. At best, it’s a horrible waste of time and disruptive. And yes, Citizens United took a bad system where guys like me need to spend an awful lot of time raising money to get reelected, and made it catastrophic.

With the system we have though, Wall Street money matters, and Himes admitted it’s an open question how much President Obama’s more populist positioning, and partial embrace of the Occupy Wall Street protesters, will redirect that money to Republicans.

It is hard to know. It is certainly true that there is less enthusiasm for the president on Wall Street today than there was three years. And so, what that does to money will play out over the next couple of months.

But again, banks continue to provide politicians some comfort, because with Bank of America around, they’re at least not the most tone deaf ones in the room.

Himes reserved his strongest language for BoA’s sense of timing on its now-abandoned plans to charge a new monthly fee for debit cards. “Public relations-wise, a catastrophe,” Himes said. “The new Coke of banking.”


More in:

Comments [17]

@Robert from NYC

We've given our jobs, our savings, our homes and, as a consequence our families in many cases!


There is simply no more to loose, that's why folks are in the streets!!

Totally agree!!

This ain't rock science!

Nov. 02 2011 11:36 AM

Oh please, I'd gladly pay five bucks for the convenience of using a machine to get my money anywhere with a little card.

Usury. Would love to see Obama, and the others, utter this word, in the context of banks.

Nov. 02 2011 10:55 AM
fhenry from L.I.

Just what we need. Another former wall street millionaire Representative, serving on the get rich quick committee of the House, on the public airways. His goal, clearly, to urge the super committee to find BIG ways to screw the poor, the ill and the aged and, do it in a hurry. Himes is a perfect example of why the Occupy Wall Street movement continues to grow.
Way to go Brian. Give them $500.00 contributors their money's worth.

Nov. 02 2011 10:55 AM
popejon from Ridge, NY

Absolutely nothing will change on both sides until you get special interest (both good and bad) campaign finance "donation" money (legalized bribery) 100% out of Washington. Its the 800lbs gorilla in the room that's been sitting there for all to see for decades..... Honestly this is what we should all be rioting in the streets about.....

Nov. 02 2011 10:41 AM
Rich K from Union City

I seriously beg to differ on the assertion that debit cards are "free." BoA and every other bank make money on every transaction, save additional money on having ATMs instead of live tellers, and make a bonanza in transaction fees when other bank customers use a BoA ATM. A $1.50 or more fee they split with the owner of the ATM, to cover a cost measured in pennies.

Nov. 02 2011 10:35 AM
phoebe from Bushwick.

Isn't the whole idea of investing in something taking a bet that it will be profitable? If that is the case, why is everyone so against allowing companies that made bad investments feel the pain. If the Greek people want to reject the bailout and pull out of the Euro zone, that is their choice; they live in a democracy. If that means that companies that invested in their bonds fail, that is what should happen. This is what investment means: risk. If I open a business and can't make a profit I must close my doors.

Nov. 02 2011 10:30 AM
steve from Manhattan

How is it possible that a Congressional member of the Finance Committee is SO ignorant on what Occupation Wall Street is about? It sounds like he's simply listening to the distortions of mainstream media, and repeating the tired and wrong stereotypes. If anyone, let alone a sitting Congressperson, does not know exactly what OWS is about, they are either not paying attention or just not interested enough to go on line (or go down to Zuccotti Park) and find out...

Nov. 02 2011 10:27 AM
Semper Fi from nyc

OWS is NOT complicated. They want the INDIVIDUALS who are corrupt, greedy, incompetent, cowardly, etc., out of the system, so the system will work for the PEOPLE.

Nov. 02 2011 10:27 AM
CL from NY

A discussion on banking regulation? Really? I must have missed it.

If the BL show really wants to have a serious program on the subject, then why don't the producers have some real, credible experts on, not the politicians and "journalists" that have come to represent the typical, tiresome guests?

Nov. 02 2011 10:25 AM
Laura from UWS

Occupy Wall Street is not about making demands. #1 message is their analysis of the current situation. This is what the early 20th C. labor movement did, too.

Nov. 02 2011 10:24 AM
Matt from Great Neck

This guy is a Democrat?

He's dead wrong about OWS: it's not about eliminating Wall Street or the financial sector. It's about making them accountable to the law and making them pay their fair share of taxes. No one want to destroy them.

This guy is exactly what's wrong with the Democratic Party.

Nov. 02 2011 10:24 AM
Laura from UWS

Why can't we tax our way our of a deficit?

Why not have a Patriot Tax and Patriot Bonds to eliminate the war debts a.s.a.p.?

How did we get out of previous deficits?

Why are New Deal programs the target of cuts?

Where is the debate about what kind of country we want to be? (I'd rather we be Sweden than Haiti!)

Nov. 02 2011 10:22 AM
Robert from NYC

Compromise and we all gotta give something bla bla bla... but we, WE the lesser folk have already given and given and given. It's time the bigger folk (richer) give, now it's time for them to give. Our part of the compromise is done, it's their time to compromise now.

Nov. 02 2011 10:21 AM
Lenore from Upper West Side

I WISH that the Democrats were so uncompromising. They give up everything. They are as bought out by the corporations as the Republicans, or very nearly so.

Brian and this congressman, stop depicting the Democrats as the rigid equivalent of no-tax Republicans. I wish they were--then the "grand bargain" might actually be something acceptable, instead of the sell-out that I am expecting.

And for New Yorkers, I was heartened by the account of Occupy Albany. There is a demand for our own Occupy Wall Street: NO TAX CUTS IN NY STATE FOR MILLIONAIRES.

What ARE the Democratic principles? Are there any??

Nov. 02 2011 10:20 AM
Terry McKenna from Dover NJ

Although I hope what Hines says is true, I fear it is not, not because he is not in earnest, but because the Republicans especially are too extreme. And here, I style myself as a moderate Republican and watched a decade ago as Dick Cheney sent them all home.

Nov. 02 2011 10:17 AM
Matt from NYC

Why not address the high costs of health care in this country? Why does the US spend twice as much for health care than any other country? There is talk of cutting benefits but not addressing these exorbitant costs?

Nov. 02 2011 10:16 AM
Robert from NYC

Loosen restrictions on community banks? Isn't that what caused all this financial mess by loosening restrictions on commercial banks? Is he looking to worsen the already bad situation?!

Nov. 02 2011 09:54 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


About It's A Free Country ®

Archive of It's A Free Country articles and posts. Visit the It's A Free Country Home Page for lots more.

Supported by

WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public.  Learn more at


Supported by