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Fast-Rising Protest Group Challenges the Outrageous Power of the Bankers

Why it's time to nationalize the banks, and enforce tough financial regulations to stop the massive theft from the public purse.
 
 
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Editor's Note: Click here to join the protest!

The Rip Off Must Be Stopped!

Big bankers ruined our economy and now they are gaming the political system so they can profit even more off the crisis they caused. They must be stopped.

On April 11th, 2009, the public will come out in cities across the country to express their frustration and disapproval with how our elected officials have handled the economic crisis. No one has been left unscathed; this protest is yours.

Sign AlterNet's pledge that you aren't going to let this rip-off happen and join New Way Forward's national protest on April 11.

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Tiffiniy Cheng, 29, never imagined she'd spark a populist movement influenced by a former IMF banker. Three weeks ago Cheng and her co-founding partners launched A New Way Forward, a volunteer-run website that advocates for a new approach to bank bailouts and is organizing a nationwide protest on April 11. Cheng and her friends are not new to online organizing. In 2006, some of them launched OpenCongress.org, a nonpartisan website that lets people track the legislation in Congress, and Downhill Battle, a music activism website, but they never had a burning desire to study and reform the financial system. Then, as 350 billion of taxpayer money went to the same CEOs who helped bring the global economic system down, Cheng and her friends, as many in America, became angry. Why reward the same people who broke the system, they asked.

On February 19, the co-founders of A New Way Forward heard Simon Johnson, the former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund (IMF),  interviewed on PBS's Bill Moyers Journal argue for an alternative bailout plan. Until recently, Johnson spent 20 years at the IMF working on international bank bailouts, among other things. Dissatisfied with the current bailout process, he decided to show his ex-colleagues at the IMF the balance sheets of some of America's leading banks receiving bailouts (concealing their names). Every one of his former colleagues gave a similar prescription: Recovery will fail unless Americans break up the financial oligarchy. In the short term, that means the failing banks would have to be temporarily taken over by the government, cleaned up, broken up and sold off in the private markets. The board members and CEOs of those banks would have to be fired and replaced. This contradicts the administration's current plan.

In an appearance on NPR's Fresh Air, host Terry Gross asked Johnson why the government hadn't fired the current CEOs. He argued that the American government allowed banks become too big and powerful through lax regulation. When banks grow too big and become major financial supporters of politicians, it becomes much harder to fire them Johnson explained.

Three weeks later, Cheng and her five activist partners launched A New Way Forward as both a platform to advocate for the bailout plan offered by Johnson and other independent economists and an online organizing tool to protest the current plan. In the first three weeks, 8,000 people of all ages signed up to participate in protests planned in over 55 cities. WireTap talked to Tiffiniy Cheng to find out why A New Way Forward thinks a different bailout plan is urgent and why these online organizers decided to protest on the streets this time.

WireTap: Let's start with the basics. Why did you and your partners decide to launch a New Way Forward initiative?

Tiffiniy Cheng: The [bank] bailouts were just on everybody's minds and on my own. Watching all of the bailouts go to the banks and bankers has been so frustrating, because they are a part of the reason why this system has been broken. Once I saw Simon Johnson on Bill Moyers Journal and heard a clear strategy that had the public interest in mind, we wanted to do something. It seemed that Obama and Congress didn't have enough political independence from the financial industry to actually push forward policies that were in the public interest. It seemed to us that there is a sound policy we can all rally around that had our interest in mind.

 
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