It would be difficult to imagine more diverse classmates than Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass. and former heavyweight boxer Chuck Wepner.

But as hard as it might be to fathom, the Bayonne, N.J., natives did indeed attend high school together, with altogether different outcomes.

One, a neighborhood tough, joined the Marines and rose through the hardened ranks of club fighting to get a one-time-only shot at the title when he faced Muhammad Ali in 1975. The "Bayonne Bleeder," as he was known, would become the real-life inspiration for the mega-billion-dollar "Rocky" franchise.

The other went on to Harvard College and Harvard Law School and eventually into politics where he was first elected to the Massachusetts legislature in 1972 and then to Congress in 1980.

I regale you with this high school confidential because of the latter's recent announcement that he would not seek re-election in 2012, thus ending his 30-year tenure representing the Bay State's 4th district. His reason was that the state's new redistricting plan would ultimately mean campaigning in front of a newly gerrymandered voting bloc, an irony the size of Boston Harbor since a redistricting effort was how he got elected initially.

As a lifelong fight fan, I miss Wepner, who retired in 1978. He was surprisingly quick-witted and great with a quote for a man who spent more than two decades absorbing countless punches, a regular guy who was far more comfortable in a sudsy dive as opposed to the glare of national television.

By contrast, I, and I'm sure many others, will not remotely miss the exiting Mr. Frank.

He, at different times, had inexplicably been labeled one of the "funniest" and "brainiest" members of Congress. I must have a far different barometer with which to gauge those characteristics.

For someone who attended one of the most prestigious shrines of higher learning, the former chairman off the House Financial Services Committee managed to get an awful lot of things wrong - often at taxpayers' expense.

Chief among them was his serving as captain of the cheerleaders for the toxic mortgage twins Fannie and Freddie, both of whom he continually protected like a father with antisocial children.

For years Frank helped prevent any meaningful reform of Fannie and Freddie in an effort to push his low cost and affordable housing agenda to the point of asking former Fannie CEO Franklin Raines, on whose watch a billion-dollar accounting scandal emerged, "Do you think you're under regulated?"

In 2003, Frank opened his mouth again only to change feet with his now-classic "I want to roll the dice a little bit more in this situation towards subsidized housing."

Want to guess what happened next?

To this day I'm sort of amazed that those involved in Occupy Wall Street have not encamped at his doorstep.

To wit, in November 2010, the GOP added 63 more House seats, the largest gain by either Democrats or Republicans since 1948. And Fannie and Freddie, since being taken over by government conservatorship have required more than $150 billion in taxpayer bailouts - and climbing.

But wait, it gets even better.

Fannie Mae CEO Michael Williams and Freddie Mac CEO Charles Haldeman Jr. had to testify before Congress on the exorbitant pay packages of their executive committees.  The total compensation for the top six executives at Fannie and Freddie for 2009 and 2010 was $35.4 million. According to reports, it's possible Haldeman and Williams could earn as much as $6 million each in salary and bonuses in 2011. Sometimes it pays to be on the taxpayer dole.

That pretty well encapsulates much of Frank's legacy.

As a matter of decorum, I won't go into the male escort scandal and for now, I'll reserve judgment on the Dodd-Frank legislation but will quickly point out it certainly did not solve the "too big to fail" dilemma or prevent the MF Global scandal.

Chuck Wepner knew when to quit. His far better educated classmate apparently did not.

Congress and the financial services industry will lose nothing in his absence.

 

 

 

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