It’s time to take on the banks. 74% of American voters agree that “greed and risky decisions of banks and financial companies led to the financial crisis and recession, and it’s time that Congress cracked down on their reckless practices to protect consumers.”
The American people are angry. There is a strong, bi-partisan appetite for reform. By a 64 to 27 percent margin, people believe that “we need stricter safeguards on banks and financial companies to improve accountability by reining in excessive bonuses, protecting consumers from exorbitant fees, and making financial dealings safer and more transparent.”
All these findings come from a new survey of registered voters done by the Benenson Strategy Group for SEIU. People understand what damage was done and who’s to blame. And behind the damage is a strong sense of betrayal.
•• “While taxpayers are still suffering under the economic crisis, the big banks are back to business as usual after their bailouts, ignoring their commitments to help taxpayers and are helping themselves instead, making tens of billions in profits on the backs of the American taxpayers.” 75 percent agree.
•• “It’s outrageous that after taking trillions of our tax dollars in bailout money, the big banks are now spending millions to lobby against reforms that would protect us from their abuses in the future.” 72 percent agree.
The solutions are clear as well. Supermajorities in the eighty percent range support technical reforms like capping rate hikes and regulating overdraft fees. Similar supermajorities support philosophical reforms like limiting executive compensation and requiring that bail-out money be used for business lending. That’s what the people want.
Now it does get partisan. Democrats have an opportunity to lead. People didn’t vote last November for laissez-faire capitalism and billion dollar bonuses. They didn’t bail out banks that were too big to fail so they could take over banks that were smaller and did.
But reform is stalling. The proposed Consumer Protection Finance Agency gets weaker every day. Efforts to regulate derivatives — what Warren Buffet called “weapons of financial mass destruction” — are barely off the ground. A grassroots push to Audit the Fed and find out what it did with our money ($2 trillion) hits deaf ears in the Senate.
Almost exactly six months ago, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) called banks the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. “And they frankly own the place.”
Now is the pivot point. After the melt-down and the election, now it’s time to find out if they still do. Democrats can show that they’re on the side of working people. They can show the courage to take on the banks. If it wasn’t obvious before, the SEIU poll makes it clear.
Next week the American Bankers Association will meet in Chicago, and protesters are organizing to be heard. Democrats can take a side.
Curious what happens if we don’t win this fight? Read my novel. 2044. The Problems Isn’t Big Brother. It’s Big Brother, Inc.