Won’t You Please Come to Chicago, No One Else Can Take Your Place
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The elites hate to acknowledge it, but when large numbers of ordinary people are moved to action, it changes the narrow political world where the elites call the shots. Inside accounts reveal the extent to which Johnson and Nixon’s conduct of the Vietnam War was constrained by the huge anti-war movement. It was the civil rights movement, not compelling arguments, that convinced members of Congress to end legal racial discrimination. More recently, the townhall meetings, dominated by people opposed to health care reform, have been a serious roadblock for those pushing reform.
Those disgusted by the bank bailouts, and the bankers who brought us this recession, will have a chance to make their views known when the American Bankers Association has its annual meeting in Chicago, October 25-27. A large coalition of labor, community, and consumer organizations are organizing a protest at this “Showdown in Chicago”.
A big turnout at this event can make a real difference. Just to review the scorecard, most of the country is still suffering the fallout from the bankers’ irrational exuberance of the housing bubble era. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and other forecasters expect the suffering to endure for years to come.
The unemployment rate is about to cross 10 percent, with an additional 9 million workers only able to find part-time work. CBO projects that unemployment will not return to normal levels until 2014. Almost 200,000 people are losing their homes every month through foreclosure. Tens of millions of people who had expected a comfortable retirement just saw most of their wealth disappear with the collapse of the housing bubble. State and local governments are being forced to lay off school teachers and fire fighters under the pressure of enormous budget deficits.
But not everyone is suffering. Thanks to the bailout programs put in place last fall, most of the country’s major banks are back on their feet. In fact, in the most recent quarter, bank profits hit a new record high as a share of all corporate profits.
And the banks are sharing their wealth. Many of their top executives and high performers will be getting bonuses this year worth millions of dollars, in some cases the bonuses will be in the tens of millions.
In the meantime, in elite Washington circles people are busy making plans for a national sales tax so that the government can limit the fiscal damage caused by the bankers’ recession. A sales tax is of course very regressive since low and moderate-income people typically spend the vast majority of their income, while our banker friends will more likely to be able to save some of their income or spend it in other countries where they will not be paying this new sales tax.
Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy. He also has a blog on the American Prospect, "Beat the Press," where he discusses the media's coverage of economic issues.