Monday, January 18, 2010


The New York Times tells us today that big banks are considering a challenge to President Obama's bank tax -- on constitutional grounds:

In an e-mail message sent last week to the heads of Wall Street legal departments, executives of the lobbying group, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, wrote that a bank tax might be unconstitutional because it would unfairly single out and penalize big banks....

The message said the association had hired Carter G. Phillips of Sidley Austin, who has argued dozens of cases before the Supreme Court, to study whether a tax on one industry could be considered arbitrary and punitive....

This, of course, infuriated the folks at Free Republic, right? Because the FR/teabag/Limbaugh crowd hates the banks -- right? Isn't that what Frank Rich says?

Er ... no:

Scott Brown appears not to have been hurt for opposing the bank tax. It is thuggish of Obama to warn people and industries not to oppose his policies.


Correct me if I remember it wrong, but about 2 months ago some banks wanted to pay back the money early and Obama wouldn’t allow it-WANTED them to owe the money.

Oh, as I type I see. Obama had this punishment tax for capitalism in mind already and it's easier to impose if the banks owe money.


we need to do this obamacare


Hmmm. Maybe we can let the big banks set the stage for asserting that ALL progressive taxes are unconstitutional, in that they unfairly single out a group for punitive taxation.


It'd be nice if the Constitutionalists had stepped in when the Feds were deciding which Wall Street firms would surive and which would go under.


Actually, I think almost all of the banks have paid back their loans and the thug-in-chief wants the fines imposed anyway.

And my favorite response:

If Wall Street doesn't grow a pair of nads now, they are forever doomed.

Yes -- those weak, simpering bankers, unable to assert themselves in a manly way!

I want to tie this to Paul Krugman's column about what's gone wrong in Barack Obama's first year. I absolutely agree with Krugman that the stimulus should have been bigger, because it was obvious that Obama wasn't going to get a second chance. And I mostly agree with this -- with a couple of caveats:

It's instructive to compare Mr. Obama's rhetorical stance on the economy with that of Ronald Reagan. It's often forgotten now, but unemployment actually soared after Reagan’s 1981 tax cut. Reagan, however, had a ready answer for critics: everything going wrong was the result of the failed policies of the past. In effect, Reagan spent his first few years in office continuing to run against Jimmy Carter.

Mr. Obama could have done the same -- with, I'd argue, considerably more justice. He could have pointed out, repeatedly, that the continuing troubles of America's economy are the result of a financial crisis that developed under the Bush administration, and was at least in part the result of the Bush administration's refusal to regulate the banks.

But he didn't. Maybe he still dreams of bridging the partisan divide; maybe he fears the ire of pundits who consider blaming your predecessor for current problems uncouth -- if you're a Democrat. (It's O.K. if you're a Republican.) Whatever the reason, Mr. Obama has allowed the public to forget, with remarkable speed, that the economy's troubles didn’t start on his watch.

The odd thing, though, is that polls say the public hasn't forgotten. A brand-new Washington Post/ABC poll says about twice as many people blame Bush as blame Obama for the economic mess. A Fox poll last week had an even greater discrepancy -- 6% blamed Obama, 36% blamed Bush.

But I worry that that's what people say when a pollster asks them, not what they feel in their gut. Reagan inspired anger in the gut. Obama hasn't done the same.

And so in stepped the tea party movement, led by lobbyists and offering a different narrative: that government (and ACORN) forced the bankers to be evil.

And now the energy of that movement is migrating from the right to the swing-vote center. We see that in Massachusetts.

Reagan spent eight years in office talking as if he were broadcasting from a samizdat radio station and the powers that be might get him any minute. He persuaded people that he was the outsider, even after he'd been in office for years. After a year of Obama, people may believe in their heads that Bush was the enemy, but in their hearts they blame Obama, because he doesn't seem determined to define an enemy (Republicans? the bankers? the insurance companies?), except occasionally.

So the teabaggers have stepped in and defined him as the Big Kahuna, the guy who must be toppled if we're to have change. Hell, they're defining big banks as fellow insurgents.

And they're winning.

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