Sunday, October 25, 2009

Trumka: Showdown in Chicago

Campaign for America's Future

I'm going to Chicago next week for the American Bankers
Association meeting. Oddly, I haven't been invited to
the Roaring '20's dance party I hear they're having.

Why wouldn't they celebrate the era of wild money and
hot times (which slid into the Great Depression)? After
all, the bankers are doing well these days.

They're doing well because after financial institutions
caused the global economic crisis, we bailed them out,
to the tune of some $700 billion.

Now they're in good enough shape to pay the suits $7
billion in bonuses for driving working families and our
economy to our knees--to the verge of a second full-
fledged depression.

Things might be turning around for the bankers, but for
the rest of us, unemployment heads toward 10 percent and
home foreclosures continue to devastate families and
communities. Working families have lost health care,
pensions and savings--and in exchange we've gotten
predatory lending, outrageous overdraft fees and sky-
high credit card interest rates.

Meanwhile, the bankers are doing the Charleston, taking
taxpayer money, handing out bonuses for disastrous
failure, becoming profitable without lending money that
could put people back to work--and spending billions
lobbying Congress to kill financial reform.

Shameless. Absolutely shameless.

On Tuesday, about 5,000 of us will be in Chicago to tell
them what we think.

It's called the Showdown in Chicago. We're gathering
outside the American Bankers Association meeting to
demand financial reform and re-regulation that will
allow us to rebuild our communities, our lives and the
real economy.

We've got a lot to rebuild.

For decades, these bankers have been dealing to each
other in what amounts to their own private casino,
inventing more and more exotic financial vehicles
together and basically regulating themselves. Their Wild
West capitalism allowed them to take outsized risk with
no oversight and then come hat in hand to the American
taxpayers when their house of cards collapsed.

They've become a menace. No one is safe while their
private casino bankrupts the real economy and ignores
necessary investments in jobs, health care and
retirement without oversight or regulation.

This is a complicated topic, but we can break down a
plan for reform into four basic needs:

  1. The Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA)
  that President Obama has proposed. This 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 CFPA would
  place consumer protection authority in the hands of a
  single agency that would monitor banks and other
  institutions and their credit products like mortgages
  and credit cards--but not your butcher, as a
  ridiculous over-the-top ad by the U.S. Chamber of
  Commerce claimed.

  2. 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 purpose
  has to 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. We need either to
  reform and democratize the Fed or to give this
  job to a true public agency. Let's do it right.

  3. Bring the "shadow markets" into the daylight. Most
  people 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.

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

It's time we hold banks and other financial institutions
accountable for making this mess that required trillions
of our dollars to clean up.

It's time to hold them accountable for the pain they've
inflicted on working families.

It's time to put them back to work for working people,
supporting families and jobs.

I've been spending a lot of time on Capitol Hill,
calling for reform in meetings with committee chairs and
other members of Congress. And everywhere I go,
financial industry lobbyists are there, pushing back all
out to block reform.

Congress is deciding right now how it will shape
financial reform--we need congressional support and
intense presidential leadership.

Call your members of Congress. They're sure hearing from
front groups for the banks. They need to hear from you,
too. Tell them to produce a financial system that isn't
set up to reward big banks at the expense of everyone
else. The money has to start flowing to regular people
and businesses that can create jobs.

And if you're in Chicago on Tuesday, join me. We'll meet
up at 10:30 a.m. at Wacker Drive and Michigan Avenue to
march to the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers where the
bankers are meeting.

See you at the Showdown

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