Carl Levin’s retirement announcement today was delicious.
The millionaire Michigan senator who gifted himself a $7500 tax break to buy his $40,000, 2012 Chevy Volt said his Number One priority in his last two years in office is cleaning up fat cat tax breaks. We’re not making this up.
“(My wife and I) decided that I can best serve my state and nation by concentrating in the next two years on the challenging issues before us,” said Michigan’s longest serving senator on his website today. “Years of bipartisan work by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations that I chair have shed light on tax avoidance schemes that are a major drain on our treasury. They add to the tax burden of ordinary Americans who have to pick up the slack and accelerate the economic inequality in our country.”
Present company excluded, of course. Levin meant corporate tax breaks. We’re still not making this up.
But Levin’s prize hypocrisy will forever be his outrage at banks for their part in causing the 2008 financial crisis. In truth, the crisis began with pols like Levin and their forced mandates on banks to lend to poor credit risks. Levin’s part was as a pit-bull supporter (see his 1999 defense here) of the Community Reinvestment Act which he protected from reform even as other federal officials saw disaster coming down the tracks.
Good politics for Levin was bad economics for the country. The bad paper issued by mortgage companies – and mandated by senators like Levin – was passed through Fannie and Freddie Mac then bundled into financial instruments by Wall Street (shame on them too) where they hid as a ticking time bomb under America’s economy.
“This was a man-made crisis, the product of reckless risk-taking,” said Levin in 2008 hearings. “Had tougher regulations been in place earlier, it’d be a heck of a lot less severe.”
He should know.