By Stephen Koff
Avarice and gluttony are good -- if you want to stoke powerful anger and indignation. That's why U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown is co-sponsoring a screening of the Oscar-contender "The Big Short" on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
The movie is based on Michael Lewis's nonfiction book about the people and tricks that brought the nation to the edge of a financial collapse in 2008. The machinations included credit default swaps, collateralized debt obligations and "shorts," or bets that make money on misfortune.
As New York Times movie critic A.O. Scott wrote, "This is a terrifically enjoyable movie that leaves you in a state of rage, nausea and despair." He was tempted, he said in his review, to go "out to the garage to look for a pitchfork."
Why would Brown, with help from Paramount Pictures, show such an incendiary movie in the hallowed halls (or an auditorium) of Congress?
Because, Brown says, the lessons from the crisis need to be brought up now and again.
"The movie opens a window on the financial crisis in a compelling and understandable way," Brown, the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, said in a statement. "With every year that passes, the more we have to be careful not to forget the causes and consequences of the Great Recession. Plus, it's not often that you can have a discussion about collateralized debt obligations without putting people to sleep."
The move is nominated for best picture at the Oscars, among other categories. The movie's director, Adam McKay, will participate in a panel discussion after the screening.
This should make for a lively discussion Wednesday evening, since congressional rules require such events to be bipartisan. So along with Brown and fellow Democrat Jack Reed, of Rhode Island, the invitation lists Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.
Isakson and Wicker voted against the Dodd-Frank legislative fixes of 2010, which attempted to safeguard the American economy by creating barriers between banks and risky business.
Dodd-Frank is constantly under threat of repeal. Only three Republican senators voted for it (Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine). Republicans said the bill went too far and now ties the hands of lenders with too many restrictions.
Wicker calls the law "a crushing regimen of unjustified regulations."
Isakson and Wicker could not be reached for comment.
Perhaps they're out looking for their pitchforks.