In a post a few days back, I observed that the big Wall Street banks were in for a fall because they had become so arrogant in their power and wealth. One example of this is on the swipe fee issue, where their over-the-top market manipulation and hyper-aggressive political tactics are ticking off not just old progressive populists like me, but a lot of the rest of the business community. Small retailers, grocers, restaurant owners, gas station owners, and cabbies have become incensed at the way these banks and their credit card companies charge exorbitant swipe fees and will not negotiate on the matter. I have started working with retail business groups on this issue simply because I'd much rather see these Main Street business folks get more of the $48 billion going out the door in swipe fees than the big banks that control more than 80 percent of the market. This issue is likely to come up for a vote within days in the Senate, so raise some hell.
Over the weekend, I wrote about an ad on the Clean Air Act that AFV had just put up. Yesterday, I wrote about the Social Security and Medicare issue. While these are very different issues in one way, they all have one thing in common: They are about attacks on the American middle class. Wealthy special interests, along with their allies in Congress and the right-wing flacks like Glenn Beck that defend them (have you seen Beck's high-pitched whining over the last week about the outrageous idea that people might actually want to take to the streets to challenge Wall Street on foreclosures?), want the ability to run roughshod over the American middle class -- even if it means poisoning your kids, telling your Grandma she's just going to have to get by on less, or taking money out of the pockets of consumers and struggling small businesses on every credit/debit card transaction. Washington is dominated by these behemoths, so even when standing up for policies that so obviously benefit the vast majority of middle-class Americans, it is difficult to fight them.
These Wall Street banks are the worst of the special interests. It is not enough to have crashed the entire world economy with their speculative bubbles and financial fraud; it is not enough that in their determination to continue to manipulate their books and inflate their assets they are foreclosing on millions of homeowners rather than writing down their mortgages; it is not enough that they fight tooth and nail against every tiny little bit of oversight that sensible folks want to place on them; it is not enough that the six biggest banks already own assets equaling 64 percent of our nation's GDP. None of that wealth, power, and hubris is enough for them. They also want to gouge every mom-and-pop businessperson who wants to let customers pay for things with a credit or debit card.
The first step in restoring the American Dream is to take these wealthy, arrogant Wall Street guys and other wealthy special interests out of the temple of our government.
Mike Lux is the President of American Family Voices.