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Dancing with Jay and Daisy


When you’re a member of the American Bankers Association (ABA) meeting in Chicago amid the worst U.S. jobless crisis and most disastrous economy since the 1930s Depression, what’s the logical move to make?

Dress up in a Roaring ’20s costume and party like it’s 1929.

Proving yet again that not only do taxpayer-bailed-out CEOs have no shame, word has it that they plan to flaunt their taxpayer-fueled wealth in our faces, the ABA is sponsoring its Roaring ’20s party in conjunction with its Oct. 27–29 meeting.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will lead thousands of mad-as-hell Americans in a rally outside the ABA meeting on Oct. 27, demanding financial reform and re-regulation that will allow us to rebuild our communities, our lives and our economy.

(If you’re in Chicago, join us Oct. 27 at 10:30 a.m. CST. The march departs from the corner of East Wacker Drive and Stetson Avenue. After about a 15-minute march, the rally will be outside the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers at 301 E. North Water St.)

Because when they’re not stocking up on Gatsby attire, Big Bankers and financial institutions are using the $700 billion in taxpayer bailout money to attack proposals like the Consumer Financial Protection Agency that would actually help working people while decreasing the chance of another Big Bank-fueled financial meltdown. Of course, they’re not using all of our money to fight reform. Some of it—about $7 billion—is going to bonuses for top CEOs.

For decades, these bankers have been dealing to each other, inventing more and more exotic financial vehicles together and basically regulating themselves. No one is safe while they are doing business with each other without oversight or regulation. A 2006 Citigroup report clearly puts it all out there: While the rich are getting a greater share of the wealth, and the poor a lesser share, political enfranchisement remains as was—one person, one vote.

Unfortunately, a big problem in making financial reform happen is actually trying to explain what’s involved. Who understands this stuff? Here’s a simple outline of what the union movement is pushing for right now in Congress.

The Consumer Financial Protection Agency. President Obama’s proposed agency would protect the public against credit card and mortgage rip-offs. The agencies that were supposed to protect us from financial meltdown failed. The new agency would place consumer protection authority in the hands of a single entity that would monitor banks and other institutions—but not your butcher, as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ludicrously claimed.

A council of regulators to identify and fix systemic risks that could threaten the entire financial system—risks such as institutions becoming “too big to fail,” too complex or too interconnected. When the government intervenes, the goal must be to protect the public, not just rescue executives and rich investors. The past year has proven that the Federal Reserve Board is just too close to the banks. Either we need to reform the Fed or we need to give this job to a truly public agency. 

Bring the “shadow markets” into the daylight. Most people—like Michael Moore’s Wall Street guy—probably don’t really know what hedge funds, private equity funds and derivatives are or do. You’re not supposed to—it makes them easy to manipulate. They’ve been unregulated and totally lacking in transparency. These vehicles need serious regulation and oversight before they suck more money into the black hole of convoluted transactions.

Reform corporate governance and CEO compensation to protect the interests of long-term investors—people saving for retirement, not speculating.

As Robert Shapiro notes on the NDN blog, CEOs are richer than ever: “We didn’t need this latest and most conspicuous instance of greed at Goldman Sachs to know that the compensation provided to the uppermost echelons of American business is out of control.” 

Since 1990, the pay of American CEOs has jumped from 90 times the average workers’ pay to 250 times—compared to 15 to 30 times for British, French and Japanese CEOs.

Wealth inequality in the United States has been long in coming, according to a new paper by the Center for Economic Policy Research:

While the United States has long been among the most unequal of the world’s rich economies, the economic and social upheaval that began in the 1970s was a striking departure from the movement toward greater equality that…was a central feature of the first 30 years of the postwar period. This is…the direct result of a set of policies designed first and foremost to increase inequality. 

Hearkening back a few decades ago when we were told to relax and love to learn the bomb, David Dayen noted yesterday how a Goldman Sachs executive offered us little people similar advice for this jobless era: We “must tolerate the inequality.”

And just to show how big-hearted they are, financial giants are offering jobless workers gigs standing in line for wealthy financial industry lobbyists. Seems the well-coiffed from Goldman Sachs and other beneficiaries of taxpayer bailout money don’t want to wait to get into congressional hearing rooms—where these lobbyists are fighting to kill regulatory reform and proposals like the Consumer Financial Protection Agency and other reforms that would actually help America’s workers.

Wealth inequality is no accident. And on Oct. 27, thousands of us will take our message directly to Jay and Daisy. 

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Tula Connell

Tula Connell