Terrance Heath

Michael Steele's Wall Street Populism

Filed By Terrance Heath | January 18, 2010 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: GOP, Haiti, Harry Reid, Michael Steele, Pat Robertson, populism, Trent Lott, Wall Street

Eugene Robinson thinks maybe Michael Steele is crazy like a fox. I think he’s just plain crazy (and only slightly crazier than the GOP for hiring him in the first place), for a number of reasons, the latest of which is a real humdinger.

And, no, I’m not talking about his apparent his temporal difficulties, or his inability to tell the difference between Trent Lott and Harry Reid (something I’ll get to in another post). Provided with an opportunity to perhaps win a modicum of credibility for himself and his party by taking on blatantly racist comments from Rush Limbaugh and downright bizarre comments from Pat Robertson in the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Steele spoke up in defense of … big banks?

Namely, the banks that taxpayers bailed out to the tune of $700 billion in TARP money. President Obama recently proposed getting some of that money back in the form of a Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee.

President Barack Obama’s message to banks on Thursday was simple. “We want our money back,” he said, during “a brief appearance with advisers at the White House,” the Associated Press reports.

“We are already hearing a hue and cry from Wall Street, suggesting that this proposed fee is not only unwelcome but unfair, that by some twisted logic, it is more appropriate for the American people to bear the cost of the bailout rather than the industry that benefited from it, even though these executives are out there giving themselves huge bonuses,” Obama said.

The president continued, “What I’d say to these executives is this: Instead of setting a phalanx of lobbyists to fight this proposal or employing an army of lawyers and accountants to help evade the fee, I’d suggest you might want to consider simply meeting your responsibility,” Obama said.

President Barack Obama will Thursday unveil a 90 billion dollar fee on 50 top finance firms to recoup taxpayer dollars used to bail out Wall Street, which is blamed for igniting the economic crisis.

Now, to you and me, the president’s proposal to collect $90 billion over ten years from the banksters who got us into this mess seems highly appropriate, given that Wall Streeters are giving themselves $145 billion in bonuses, while $117 billion of their loan from taxpayers remains unpaid. Never mind that they’ve been pretty reluctant to use that money for boosting lending or anything else that might benefit Americans, choosing instead to sit on it or use it to acquire smaller banks. Oh, and all while raising fees left and right, to squeeze even more money from the other 99% of us.

Besides, they ought to be fined for begrudgingly admitting to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission that “mistakes were made,” while remaining decidedly clueless as to how it all happened.

And as long as we’re handing out fines for obstinate stupidity, Michael Steele has more than earned one for opposing an effort to recoup taxpayers’ money from Wall Street.

Do Republicans oppose this tax hike — yet risk appearing to side with Wall Street?

Well, RNC Chairman Michael Steele released a statement blasting the tax. "President Obama's plans to institute a 'financial crisis responsibility fee' to recoup the bailout funds from major banks is nothing more than another tax on the American public. The fact is this money has already been paid back by the banks and this punitive tax will hurt Americans' savings and discourage job creation at the worse of economic times. However, it will fatten the wallets of Democrats on Capitol Hill by $90 billion over the next ten years.”

How is it a tax on the American people to demand that Wall Street return tax dollars they aren’t using to to help Main Street America in the midst of a crisis that Wall Streeter’s own shenanigans started and fueled until it ran out of gas needed taxpayers to bail them out? It is if your Michael Steele, and if you maintain a long-distance relationship with reality.

Cheer up Mr. Steele. Perhaps the Obama administration will come to its senses and opt to have the repayment of the remaining TARP funds managed by private contractors. (No bids, of course.) Even if it ends up costing more than the amount due, at least more taxpayer dollars will be going to private firms, instead of where it might actually do the rest of us some good.

It was bad enough when your party voted en masse against financial reform. But with this, I think it’s time to fold your populist banner and put it away. Permanently.

After all, we know whose side you’re on now.

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