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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Obama and Wall Street

Is Occupy Wall Street fueling a populist political movement on the left that can pave the way to new economic stimulus, dramatic economic reforms in the tax code, or whatever else they might seek? I'm not trying for cheap snark -- but they have been somewhat unclear about their goals.

Could the protest movement even help energize voters on the political left, in the same way the tea party did on the right in 2010, and thus help Barack Obama and other Democrats find victory in November 2012?

Or, as my Duck of Minerva colleague Megan MacKenzie argued today, should the White House be ashamed for ignoring (and thereby "insulting") the anti-Wall Street populism for the past 10 days?

I have to disagree with Megan on this one.

Sunday, Obama blasted Bank of America for its $5 fee on debit card users. "You don’t have some inherent right just to, you know, get a certain amount of profit, if your customers are being mistreated,” he said. Later, he added, “this is exactly the sort of stuff that folks are frustrated by.” Was that a nod to the protesters? It sure sounds like they are on the same side.

The National Journal today criticized the President for his overt "tax the rich" populism -- an approach some of his advisors apparently think will fail in key swing states. Steve Benen dismissed that take, however.
A month ago, independents sided with the GOP by a five-point margin on creating jobs, but now we independents siding with Obama by 13 points. That’s a pretty dramatic swing in a fairly short period of time, suggesting that those arguing that the president is driving independent voters away with his new economic message have this precisely backwards.
Google the White House website for "Wall Street" and you learn that the President or his chief spokespersons have been demonizing Wall Street in some way almost every day -- and pointing out that their reform law was aimed at tightening regulation. Here's a sample from September 30:
frankly, we had seen the rules tilted against ordinary folks in favor of those who were well connected in Washington or powerful on Wall Street.

And we argued in 2008 -- and we captured I think the imaginations of a lot of people -- that we could bring about some fundamental change if we got past some of the partisan rancor and the constant politicking that had come to characterize Washington.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner today emphasized "shock" that Wall Street itself has turned against President Obama -- and he expressed (somewhat incoherent) sympathy for the concerns of those who Occupy Wall Street. For the new populist Obama, it is desirable for Wall Street to hate you. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend," right?

And finally, Politico reported this additional evidence today:
“He [Obama] gets genuinely pissed off at the banks; it’s not an act,” said Jared Bernstein, a former adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, who participated in Obama’s daily economic briefing in the Oval Office for the first year of the administration.... “The angriest I ever saw the president was when we found out about those bonuses,” he said. [The banking industry] is like a Doberman he found by the side of the road, nursed back to health, only to have them jump up and bite him.
Our newly populist president has seen his poll numbers drop month-after-month. I do not know if his new economic message will reverse those trends, but it does appear as if he's rolled up his sleeves for a fight with Wall Street. And in doing that, he's with the Occupy Wall Street crowd.

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1 comment:

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