You know something is happening when top economists are calling for mass protests.
But that’s exactly what economist Dean Baker does in his latest column “Won’t You Please Come to Chicago, No One Else Can Take Your Place”.
Those disgusted by the bank bailouts, and the bankers who brought us this recession, will have a chance to make their views known when the American Bankers Association has its annual meeting in Chicago, October 25-27. A large coalition of labor, community, and consumer organizations are organizing a protest at this “Showdown in Chicago”.
A big turnout at this event can make a real difference. Just to review the scorecard, most of the country is still suffering the fallout from the bankers’ irrational exuberance of the housing bubble era. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and other forecasters expect the suffering to endure for years to come.
Enough is Enough.
The Banks Have Had A Recovery – Now the American People Need One.
Organizers say they will also be promoting a set of specific solutions aimed at addressing financial reform and real economic recovery, among them:
Too Big to Fail
In the US today, three banks hold almost 34% of the nation’s deposits, four banks issue 50% of the country’s mortgages and the five largest credit card lenders control 74% of the market. These companies have a stranglehold on our wallets. And as we’ve seen, when they make bad decisions, they can take the whole economy down with them.
New laws should be put in place that minimize the risk of the “too big to fail” problem. No single institution should be in control of such a large part of the market. Instead, we should encourage a vibrant, diverse, stable banking system, made up of thousands of small and medium size banks. Strong competition policies and antitrust laws will encourage financial institutions to invest in productive activity, instead of investing in changing the rules of the game or manipulating the market.
Consumer Financial Protection Agency
The Obama Administration has called for the creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA) that will make protecting consumers a priority over protecting the interests of the banks. Seven different government agencies had the power to stop the reckless risk-taking that wrecked our economy, but they didn’t use it. Lax oversight helped spawn the disastrous mortgage products and practices that triggered the current crisis. What’s more there is virtually no regulatory authority over firms that have pushed bad mortgages, payday loans and other products that are overly complicated, or are simply rip-offs. The CFPA will bring the focus we need to clean up destructive and unfair financial practices, restore the integrity of our financial system, and prevent another disaster in the future.
As Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, writes in support of the Showdown in Chicago:
The policies that will rein in the banks: reform of the Federal Reserve Board to make it democratically accountable, a tax on financial speculation to pay for the bankers’ mess, and restrictions on the bank abuses of consumers that caused the carnage have support from people on both the left and right.
A bill that would require the Fed to disclose what it did with more than $2 trillion in loans to banks and other financial institutions was originally co-sponsored by Ron Paul and Alan Grayson, one of the most conservative and one of the most progressive members of Congress. Due to public pressure, it now has more than 270 co-sponsors.
This is exactly the sort of alliance that gets the elite worried. Reining in the power of the financial industry will be a long, hard-fought war, but it is one that must be fought. President and Nobel peace prize winner Barack Obama may not have been able to bring the Olympics to Chicago, but everyone who wants to retake our country from the banks can bring their backside there on October 25th.