Letter to the editor: Does Wall Street have no shame?

By Camden Fine

“Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute.”

When Robert Goodloe Harper uttered that famous statement he was referring to America’s undeclared war with the Barbary Pirates in 1798.

Today, that famous rallying cry has been perverted and turned on its head with the letter sent to the Congress by the Financial Services Roundtable (FSR) opposing a temporary extension of the Transaction Account Guarantee (TAG) program.

Wall Street has a new rallying cry, “Trillions for Wall Street, but not one cent for Main Street.” Is that the smell of hypocrisy wafting in the air? And what of that “one voice for the industry” tune that some have been singing at banker gatherings around the country the past couple of years? I guess as long as the tune is Wall Street’s tune, then we are all “one voice.” Otherwise, not so much.

So now, those who brought you the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and sucked down trillions of taxpayer dollars want to vacuum up billions of dollars from thousands of small local community banks still reeling from the carnage wrought by Wall Street. What is most tragic about the FSR letter is that it is not even apples to apples. Not one cent of taxpayer money (tribute?) is involved in the TAG program that pays outsized benefits for community banks and the small businesses they serve on thousands of Main Streets from coast to coast.

Apparently, as Bloomberg reported last year, $7.7 trillion in guarantees and secret loans that kept the “Zombie” brain-dead banks of Wall Street alive in 2008-09 is just not enough. Now they want to go after the relatively modest commercial deposits in community banks by gutting the bank-paid transaction guarantee program. Does Wall Street have no shame? Just 50 banks, less than 1 percent of more than 7,200 banks, already control more than $10 trillion of the $14 trillion in the banking system. Do those 50 banks just want to scoop up every penny on Main Street and milk it dry? Has their “too-big-to-fail” hubris reached a new high? Judging from their letter, the answer is yes.

It is the holiday season, and the famous Frank Capra holiday movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” will be shown on the TV screens of millions of homes. And just like in the town of Bedford Falls, Mr. Potter, owner of the town’s “mega” bank, wants total control of Main Street by trying to shut down George Bailey’s little community bank. Mr. Potter did not succeed. Like George Bailey, let’s all fight and keep these modern day Mr. Potters from sucking up Main Street.

Call and write your members of Congress today and urge them to extend this much-needed deposit coverage.

Camden Fine is the executive director of the Independent Community Bankers of America which wants to extend the bank-paid FDIC Transaction Account Guaranty program currently under consideration by Congress.

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