As the American Bankers Association convenes in Chicago this weekend, thousands of people are gathering to demand that the big banks and financial institutions stop blocking reforms that would protect consumers who are facing foreclosure, termination of credit and high interest rates.
The outrage is well placed. After the bailout of the very institutions that have brought America to the brink of economic disaster, those same institutions are spending millions to block reforms that would help everyday people cope with home foreclosure, joblessness, and lack of credit. Then to turn around and use taxpayer dollars to give seven figure bonuses to their executives is simply unacceptable. Enough already.
Wall Street has had its turn; now it's time to focus on Main Street.
In particular, the financial industry is pulling out all the stops to stop passage of legislation to create a federal consumer financial protection agency. The new agency would have the power to regulate products such as home loans and credit cards. The bill took a major step forward last Thursday when it passed the House Financial Services Committee.
Taxpayers have protected the banks and brokerage houses from their own failures through the bailout but who's protecting taxpayers from the greed of bankers, which has been so far borne on the backs of consumers and homeowners? Congress, it's time to step up.
But the consumer financial protection agency is just a start. Congress must also act to bring new protections for small businesses that are struggling with the double whammy of low consumer spending and the lack of credit.
During the height of the recession, small business owner Nicole Jones emailed me in the middle of the night panicked that she would have to close her doors because her line of credit had been pulled without warning after years as a faithful client at her bank. And her story was not unique.
History shows us that in times of recession small businesses have led the way forward and out of recession. They create the jobs that we so desperately need. After all, entrepreneurship is what this country was founded on and it has always been the economic engine for creating jobs right in the communities where we live.
This is why we must reject the old sink-or-swim view of free enterprise to provide the capital that small businesses need to survive and thrive through the downturn, and create jobs. If we can do it for the big banks and auto makers, we can do it for entrepreneurs and small business.
Financial reforms that help people - consumers, homeowners and small businesses - are not just the fair thing to do; they're the smart thing to do. We must do everything we can to make sure our economic recovery creates jobs, protects homeowners, and extends credit where it is most needed. Otherwise only the banks will recover, leaving the rest of us behind.