Fast-Rising Protest Group Challenges the Outrageous Power of the Bankers
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Is your agenda mostly informed by Simon Johnson?
Yes, a lot of our thinking comes from what Simon Johnson, but also what James Kwak, George Akerlof, and Robert Shiller have written about. I think Paul Krugman is also pretty influential. And we started working on this campaign when both [Paul] Bernanke and [Nouriel] Roubini came out and said that we might need to take a different course. That nationalization [of the banks] would probably be a good thing in their view. We are drawing ideas from expert opinion for sure. We are looking at all of the people who are talking about a way we can get out of this economic crisis in a way that will allow us to build a healthier economy, and a healthier free market where the bottom is allowed to prosper. We are looking at any economist or any leader in Congress who is talking about the policies that will affect the working class people as well.
What is your agenda?
First, nationalize the banks. That means temporary FDIC [Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation that guarantees the safety of deposits in the U.S. banks] intervention. FDIC can help to clear the balance sheets of any bank that is failing and has needed the bail out money.
To clarify, right now, it's still the bank board members and the CEOs who are deciding how the money is going to be spent, right?
They are not only deciding, the current plan allows them to privatize the cost of the bail out, and socialize the cost. We are saying the government should be getting something back.
To clarify, another way to describe this is if the banks fail, taxpayers pay for it. If the banks succeed, they take the profits, correct?
Exactly. We are giving them the money with no strings attached.
The second point on your agenda calls to reorganize the current banking system--what do you mean by that?
We think that the government and any future regulatory agency needs political independence from the current powerful financial industry. We are saying that if the government cleans up their balance sheets, other banks should be able to come in and build a new banking system with new rules in place.
And the final point of your agenda is decentralize--what does that mean?
Regulation. We don't want to see any bank that is allowed to grow so big, again, that they can take down the entire economy ["too big to fail"]. The people in power for the past 20 years have eroded most anti trust laws that would make it so that financial industry aren't allowed to make complex financial instruments that create a web of influence that can take down the country. We don't want to see monopolistic behaviors. We don't think that financial industry should be able to play around with consumers' money in such a frivolous way. We need a healthy free market and the best way to do that is to allow for a new, smaller banking industry grow to a healthy level without creating this web of connections.
One of the key points that Simon Johnson made on the Fresh Air program, I think, was that when a similar banking crisis happened in Sweden, at some point, the government had to "face down the big bankers" and tell them that they screwed up and will be replaced by other CEOs and board members. And he was implying that the American Banks are so big and powerful and contribute so much money to politicians that the elected officials are not standing up to them right now. So, does that relate to your point about why we don't want to let any banks get this big and powerful?