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Hullabaloo


Thursday, March 25, 2010

 
Wall Street's Public Option

by digby

The country is very skeptical of the financial sector and want the government to do something to curb its excesses. But for some reason, they don't like the Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

Almost seven out of 10 people surveyed support using current bank regulators for consumer protection, backing positions held by the financial industry and Republicans over President Barack Obama’s proposal to establish an independent agency...

As the country struggles with a 9.7 percent unemployment rate while financial stocks surge, 57 percent of Americans have a mostly unfavorable or very unfavorable view of Wall Street, versus fewer than one-quarter who have a favorable opinion. Banks are viewed badly by 54 percent of poll respondents, and 60 percent have a negative opinion of insurance companies.

The poll also shows most Americans don’t like the nation’s top corporate bosses. Almost two-thirds say they have an unfavorable opinion of business executives, a rating that rivals the public’s disdain for Congress, which was viewed with disfavor by 67 percent of respondents.

Fifty-six percent of those polled say they would support government action to limit compensation of those who helped cause the financial crisis, or to ban those people from working in the banking industry.

“The amount of money that people on Wall Street make seems to be really out of bounds,” said Laure Sinclair, 52, a part- time accountant who lives in Dallas. “But I don’t know that the government can regulate that because we want to be a capitalist society.”

Obama’s proposal for a stand-alone consumer agency has been a main sticking point in negotiations between Senate Democrats and Republicans on broader legislation to increase oversight of Wall Street.

The majority of poll participants -- 56 percent -- say big financial companies are more interested in enriching themselves at the expense of ordinary people, while 40 percent say such firms play a vital role in enabling the economy to grow.

At the same time, Americans are divided over the scope of government regulation. More than 40 percent of Americans say the government has gone too far in measures to fix the financial industry; 37 percent say it hasn’t done enough. Almost six out of 10 people say Wall Street hasn’t gone far enough on its own to protect against future emergencies.

“Anything the government gets their fingers in, they mess it up,” said poll participant Norman White, 60, a community college electronics instructor who lives in Colfax, Louisiana. “I don’t have a very high opinion of the government running anything.”


It's hard to know where people are getting their opinion of the CFPA --- it's not like it's a household name. But the anti-government propaganda of the last 30 years has certainly done its work, at least in the abstract. On the specifics, however, most people think the government needs to curb the financial sector's excesses --- they just don't seem to understand the problem.

I'm guessing that the congress thinks this will be a battle similar to the public option in which all the attention gets focused on that one aspect of the reforms while everything else slides under the radar. But I'm not sure that's going to work. Nobody believes that financial reform is a once in a generation opportunity that will literally be life saving. It's something the left could easily leverage with the right in the way they couldn't with HCR.

On the politics, it would not hurt liberals to vote against it nearly as much as it would hurt conservatives. Playing against type makes this sort of thing work politically. Everybody already suspects Republicans of being the well paid whores of the wealthy, so if they vote against it they are automatically on the defensive. The liberals are the ones who are always trying to take the money from the right people to give to the dusky sorts who don't deserve it. The GOP and the conservadems could get caught in their own web on this and have to make some difficult choices for a change.

We'll see what happens, but one thing is for sure: either the Democrats find some way to channel the people's anger and frustration or the right is going to do it for them. A few criminal indictments for the obvious fraud that took place would go a long way toward putting themselves on the right side of this issue.



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