A Sign Occupy Wall Street Is Having Political Impact

Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Supporters from Occupy Wall Street participate in a protest before marching to Zuccotti Park.

For those saying that Occupy Wall Street hasn't had a concrete effect, take a look at this. It's not much, but it's a little something. The leaders of the House Financial Services Committee announced yesterday that they will be holding hearings on the SEC's practice of concluding settlements with Wall Street defendants without forcing the accused to admit to wrongdoing.

This whole thing seems to be the creature of ranking Republican Spencer Bachus. From his site:

"The SEC’s practice of using 'no-contest settlements' has raised concerns about accountability and transparency, and I’m pleased the Committee will examine these concerns in a bipartisan manner," said Chairman Bachus.

If they actually do something about this, then it'll be time to give them a pat on the back. But in the meantime, we can expect to see a lot of things like this in an election year marked by an absence of a real galvanizing message coming from either party. With OWS and populist anger generally filling that messaging void, there are going to be a lot of politicians who will look to capitalize by doing things like, for instance, beating up on the SEC in a few days of well-publicized but ineffectual hearings.

Spencer Bachus to positioning himself as a champion of Wall Steeet reform is, of course, hilarious. Not only was he one of the leaders of the opposition to even the very mild Dodd-Frank reform, he went out of his way to stall changes to the rules governing derivative trades that would have prevented abuses like JP Morgan Chase's rape of Jefferson County, Alabama. This was particularly egregious because Bachus, who was the House's third-biggest recipient of Wall Street money and a heavy beneficiary of donations from Chase, happened to be Jefferson County's congressman.

So this guy is no enemy of the banks. What yesterday's move does show, however, is that politicians are listening to the specific complaints of OWS. A year ago, we would never have even seen hearings like this coming from the likes of Bachus and Barney Frank, who also supported them move. But now, everybody is trying to find a way to ride the wave. It's too early to celebrate any of this, but it can't be a bad thing.

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