In what appears to be an effort to garner email addresses for his U.S. Senate campaign, a Texas Republican who formerly served on Washington Mutual’s board of directors has launched a website called “End Occupy,” which blames young Americans and their “false sense of entitlement” for the country’s current economic status.
“The Occupy Wall Street crowd represents the same flawed values that got our country into this economic mess,” Tom Leppert’s “EndOccupy.com” claims. “They possess a false sense of entitlement and think they should be receiving government handouts and run up the debt on an imaginary credit card by making hard-working Americans and future generations pay for the bill.” It goes on to ask for petition signatures, which will be sent to President Barack Obama.
But for Leppert, who’s running to replace Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), that allegation may just produce a round of laughter from the occupied streets of New York all the way to his home in Dallas, Texas, given his history. Leppert was one of the last chairmen of Washington Mutual’s audit committee, right before the company earned the title of largest bank failure in U.S. history, fleecing shareholders of $63 billion.
Before it went down, WaMu was cited as one of the worst offenders in offering the junk loans that inflated the housing bubble. When that bubble popped, WaMu was seized by government regulators, then sold to JPMorgan Chase for $1.9 billion. Chase shortly thereafter received a $25 billion bailout financed by U.S. taxpayers, which it has since paid back.
Luckily for Leppert, he didn’t have to manage that morass, finding himself in a new job just before the crisis hit: Mayor of Dallas, an office he held from 2007-2011.
As a candidate for U.S. Senate, some of Leppert’s largest campaign contributors are in the finance, insurance and real estate sectors. They include the financial services and advisory firm Ernst & Young, which was sued in 2010, and again in 2011, for allegedly helping Lehman Bros. cover up its failing finances ahead of their complete collapse, which was one of main triggers that launched the global financial crisis. Ernest & Young gave Leppert $23,000, according to OpenSecrets.org.
Leppert’s campaign platform goes on to blame “entitlements” and government spending for the current economic crisis. His “solutions” include familiar platitudes like ending Social Security by transforming it into savings accounts held by private banks, and turning Medicare into a coupon program that forces seniors into the private insurance market. He’s also proposed making every state in the U.S. a “right to work” state, meaning public unions would be forbidden, new employees in unionized industries would not be compelled to join unions and employers could fire their workers for virtually any reason at all.
Leppert also cites massive government debt as the main drag on the U.S. economy. He neglects to note that approximately half of the government’s debt today comes from programs initiated by President George W. Bush and continued by President Obama, who bailed out the financial sector in an effort to prevent a second Great Depression after the financial crisis.
Contrary to Leppert’s stated view, that crisis “had a lot to do” with risk taking on Wall Street and in the boardrooms of major banks, according to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
“I would say very generally I think people are quite unhappy with the state of the economy and what’s happening,” Bernanke explained during a U.S. Senate hearing in early Oct. “They blame, with some justification, the problems in the financial sector for getting us into this mess, and they’re dissatisfied with the policy response here in Washington. And at some level, I can’t blame them.”
A request for comment filed with Leppert’s campaign went without reply.
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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