You’d think that Wall Street bankers – who have caused a national economic collapse and cost taxpayers $12 trillion just to keep banks in business – would be pariahs in Washington.
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But no – not only are they still being glad-handed and back-slapped in the Capitol corridors by officials of both parties, but the banking lobby is still winning legislative and regulatory battles over you, me, and the public interest. Why is that?
Remember the words of Willie Sutton, who said he robbed banks “Because that’s where the money is.” Even though today’s robbers are the bankers themselves, they are still a reliable source of campaign money for both Democrats and Republicans – and that money buys them friends in high places.
In a recent survey by The Hill, a newspaper that covers the Capitol, Wall Street interests were found to have amassed more than $6 million in their political action committees this year – even as they were taking bailout funds from us. For example, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, and JPMorgan Chase each had between half-a-million and $1.3 million in their PACs – money to entice and reward lawmakers.
There’s no subtlety to what they’re doing. Bank of America, for one, openly admits that it’s keeping tabs on which members stand with it on votes against you and me. “We’re doing our research,” explains a spokeswoman. A lobbyist for the biggest financial corporations asserts that campaign donations are merely Wall Street’s way of helping members of Congress develop good public policy. “Now more than ever,” he says, “they need to hear from industry.”
Hogwash. We’re in this mess because Congress listened to Wall Street, rather than to our streets. Here’s something for Congress critters to contemplate: only six percent of Americans support your big banker bailout.
“Bank PAC money keeps pace,” The Hill, June 10, 2009.
“Just 6% Prefer Giving Federal Money to Banks And 51% Say No Funding Even If Banks Fail,” www.zogby.com, March 31, 2009.