THE BLOG

Showdown in Chicago: Creating a "Which Side Are You On" Moment

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • George Goehl Executive Director, National People’s Action and National People's Action Campaign

It would be hard to dream up a story as incredible as this: The same financial institutions that drove a record foreclosure crisis, sent our economy into a deep recession, and needed billions upon billions in taxpayer bailouts are spending money like never before to defeat financial reform that would prevent a future meltdown.

The meaning of this incredible story in the lives of everyday Americans couldn't be more disparate than that of the continuation of life in the clouds for Wall Street CEOs. The scorecard reads like one of the all-time great routs in world history.

The American People

The Big Banks Meanwhile the nation's four largest banks are back to raking in billions in profits. Here are the numbers through the first three quarters of 2009.

  • Wells Fargo - $8.8 billion
  • JP Morgan Chase - $8.4 billion
  • Bank of America - $6.4 billion
  • Citigroup - $6 billion

Now, as if testing how much taunting the American people can stand, financial institutions are gearing up for bonus season, with Goldman Sachs announcing that their 2009 bonus pool has reached nearly $17 billion.

The nation's largest banks and their lobbyists helped lead the charge to deregulate the financial markets. We have seen how that plan worked out. Now, they are activating their powerful lobbying apparatus to defeat common-sense solutions that would protect people and prevent another crisis. Let's not hand the keys back to the same impaired drivers who just drove us into the ditch.

In this David vs. Goliath fight, we need a game-changing moment. That is exactly what a coalition of people from all walks of life intend to create when they come to together in Chicago October 25-27. We aim to hold banks accountable by going toe-to-toe with the American Bankers Association, a trade and lobby association that includes the nation's largest banks.

The big banks and their convention are the focus of this Showdown in Chicago -- but a message of "Which Side Are You On?" should be aimed directly at members of Congress and the administration. Will they continue to side with the financial industry and their hefty campaign contributions, or will they stand squarely with the American people and push for significant financial reform? Our message should be loud and clear: "Stand with us!" Until our elected officials know there is a price to pay for siding with big money over everyday people, the average American will continue be on the losing end.

The good news is that this story does not have to end in tragedy. There is still time to write a happy ending. But, the last chapter can't be written by Wall Street. It can't be written by bank lobbyists. And it can't be written by politicians who are more beholden to campaign contributions than they are to their constituents.

The last chapter must be written by the American people - and it starts in Chicago.