Circus of Outrage on Capitol Hill

Lawmakers make a good show bawling out CEOs, but will anything really change?

Yesterday we witnessed what's becoming a very predictable spectacle up on Capitol Hill: some wrongdoing fat cats who wasted billions of citizen dollars get called before Congress to explain where all the money went, and the very same lawmakers who happily voted to reduce regulation and oversight several years ago now indignantly bawl out the miscreants for pushing the limits of their poorly designed laws.

We saw it with the CEOs of mortgage companies, the CEOs of the Big Three automakers, and yesterday the CEOs of several large banks receiving significant government bailout funds.

It is always fun to see an indignant lawmakers pitching a fit over their wronged constituents, of course, and nothing beats the spectacle of Congresswoman Maxine Waters asking questions that are so bizarre that Bank of America Ken Lewis had to say at one point, in a moment of stunned honesty, "I don't know what you're talking about." That's always good fun.

However, the general circus begins to seem a little phony when you find out just how many furious citizens' advocates actually voted for legislation like the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, the legislation that deregulated the derivatives market and allowed such future disasters as credit default swaps to arise in the first place. Remember credit default swaps? They were the thing that brought down the mortgage market, which is where this whole mess began.

Add to that the fact that outrage over, say, creditors raising interest rates on card holders after they've already received TARP money is shutting the door after the horses have left the barn. Until Congress writes actual, enforceable laws that banks can't weasel out of, which they never will, business will continue to periodically rake consumers over the coals and ask the government for money when they really screw up.

Financial analyst and freelance drama critic Sara K. Smith writes for NBC and Wonkette.

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