The banking industry’s lobby group, the American Bankers Association, is holding its annual convention in Chicago right now and they’ve been greeted by thousands of protestors who are sick of the industry holding Washington and our economy hostage. According to organizers’ reports, they’ve disrupted the meeting, surrounded the building and demanded accountability from the people who broke the world.
The protests come alongside news that House Democrats will begin crafting new regulations this week, with White House support, that would make sure we no longer have financial institutions that are “too big to fail.” As the New York Times reported yesterday,
A senior administration official said on Sunday that after extensive consultations with Treasury Department officials, Representative Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, would introduce legislation as early as this week. The measure would make it easier for the government to seize control of troubled financial institutions, throw out management, wipe out the shareholders and change the terms of existing loans held by the institution.
The ABA and its cohorts will no doubt continue spending millions in lobbying cash to make sure any new regulations are too weak to make a difference. The protests, dubbed Showdown in Chicago by organizers, hope to counter the banking lobby’s money by demonstrating public outrage to lawmakers. They’ll get no help from the mainstream media, however. Apparently it’s no fun covering protests where people don’t brandish weapons and call the president a Nazi, because I’m not seeing much coverage of the event. But check out Democracy Now!’s story today, Esther Kaplan's blog posts at The Nation, Huffington Post’s photos or follow the action on Twitter via the hashtag #ABAShowdown.
And you can find an overview of the reforms organizers are calling for here. It’s commonsense stuff, such as:
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.
That’s a no-brainer, absent the ABA’s millions of dollars in annual lobbying expenditures to keep our elected representatives in their pockets.
UPDATE: Check out video of Showdown protestors taking over lobby of Wells Fargo, to deliver a letter on behalf of taxpayers. You'll recall Wells Fargo as having added the term "mud people" to our financial lexicon—a phrase they used to talk about the black and Latino borrowers they targeted with subprime and predatory loans.