David Atkins claims that despite the fact that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and California Attorney General Kamala Harris agreed to the foreclosure deal, and there couldn’t have been a deal without their sign on, they shouldn’t be held responsible for their actions. From David Atkins:
But the people who should not be getting the blame are brave folks like Schneiderman and Harris. Schneiderman and Harris stood up to immense amounts of Administration pressure for months in an attempt to secure as much accountability as they could for the recklessly criminal financial sector cartels. A settlement on this issue was always going to happen for the reasons I stated above: the entire weight of the system basically demanded it. As long as banks are allowed to run our economic lives, nothing serious is going to be done to put financial institutions already on precarious footing into even more danger. Nothing is going to be done to throw their major executives in jail as long as people and government are seen as subservient to the Great Free Market, rather than the other way around.
Harris and Schneiderman fought as long and as hard as they could against this tide, and their efforts without question led to a better settlement than would have been achieved without them. I know there’s a temptation to rail against them and declare them traitors, and that’s understandable.
But I would advise that progressive wrath be focused where it belongs: on Holder, on the President, on the financial institutions and their executives (of course), and on the entire neoliberal ideology that enabled this situation to occur in the first place.
On the first point, this is just horribly flawed logic. A deal was never inevitable. There was no deal without California. If at any time Harris ever definitively stated, “I will never accept any settlement,” the deal would have died. Nothing is predestined. Claiming that a terrible thing was “always going to happen” so the people with the power to stop it should not be held responsible for agreeing to let it happen is the ultimate loser mentality. It will always be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
On the second point, Harris and Schneiderman are not some hapless victims of this dynamic. As elected attorneys general, they are the supreme legal officers in their states. They have the power to throw major executives in jail. The only reason the government is seen as subservient to the Great Free Market is because top government officials, like them, cut sweetheart deals instead of truly enforcing the laws. The only way this dynamic stops is if people in their positions do something about it, which they did not.
Of course Eric Holder, President Obama and all the other AGs all deserve to share the responsibility for this deal, which includes Schneiderman and Harris.
The fact is that as the elected chief legal officers in their states, no one had the power to make Harris or Schneiderman accept the deal. Yes, a lot of indirect political pressure was applied to them, but that is all it was. No one literally put a gun to their heads. Nothing actually prevented them from fighting longer or harder. The deal happened because they choose to agree to it. It would not have happened without them.
No one should get a pass. Everyone should be held responsible for the choices they make.