Obama Is Right to Fight for Real Financial Reform: Let's Organize to Hold Big Banks Accountable

Last night in his State of the Union address, President Obama reinforced his ambitious agenda to fix the economy and enact financial reform, including measures to hold Big Banks accountable for their reckless actions that led to our financial crisis and the loss of millions of jobs:

The House has passed financial reform...And the lobbyists are already trying to kill it. Well, we cannot let them win this fight. And if the bill that ends up on my desk does not meet the test of real reform, I will send it back.

At Americans for Financial Reform, we are fighting to make this possible. Financial reform will protect working families and small businesses by reining in the greedy, reckless behavior of big banks on Wall Street and will crack down on the abuses committed by credit card companies and the mortgage lending industry. These reforms will hold Wall Street accountable and prevent another financial crisis.

Everyone agrees that this is the time for tough action to rein in Wall Street. And you can join us here in the fight to hold the big banks accountable.

Well, in truth, not everyone agrees. The people who caused this crisis don't. As the President mentioned, the Big Banks--especially Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Citibank, and Wells Fargo--are fighting tooth and nail to kill reform.

It's outrageous that after taking trillions of our tax dollars in bailout money, the big banks are back to business as usual, taking billions in profits and bonuses and spending hundreds of millions to pay lobbyists to fight against reforms that would protect us from their abuses in the future.

They like the status quo, and why shouldn't they? Their salaries are astronomical (94 cents of every dollar made at Morgan Stanely went to compensation. And Citigroup paid so much in compensation in 2009 - $24.9 billion - that the company "more than wiped out every penny of profit" according to the New York Times). And if they get their way, their future mistakes will be paid for with our taxpayer bailout dollars.

What's "good" for the Big Banks is not what's best for the rest of us. The lines are drawn. Wall Street big banks on one side and the American Public on the other. We're looking for elected officials to stand on our side rather than with the big banks. Poll after poll shows this, with the latest numbers showing that nearly three-quarters of Americans say that not enough has been done to set tougher rules for Wall Street and the banking industry. This is a fight where our leaders must show whose side they are on--the big banks or the side of the people.

Members of Congress should use last night's State of the Union as the moment to rush to the people's side of the line. This is a historic chance for them to stand with the great majority of our country, and it would be tragic if they let industry cash or inside-the-Beltway double speak stand in their way. Half measures aren't cutting it, and a halfhearted commitment to reform won't either.

And Americans won't be fooled by sham reforms. We know that the cornerstone of real financial reform is the creation of a strong, independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency that will crack down on exorbitant fees and deceptive practices of credit card companies, mortgage brokers and others who prey on hard-working Americans. The President and Congress must also truly rein in Wall Street to restore confidence in the financial system. We need strong measures to purge the reckless and greedy behavior of the Wall Street banks that brought the economy down. At AFR we will not accept empty reforms that look good but create behemoth-sized loopholes to allow business as usual.

Anyone who opposes a CFPA or tougher rules for Wall Street is on the wrong side of the line and of history. They are standing with the lobbyists who are trying to keep the system rigged so that it benefits Big Bank titans, not regular Americans. By demanding accountability from those who helped cause the financial crisis, we can make financial dealings safer and more transparent for the American consumers, investors, and small business that play by the rules. We can prevent future crises, bailouts and job losses, and lay the foundation for a financial system that promotes stability and long-term economic growth, rather than greed and short term-profits.

Those who oppose this reform are standing with Wall Street lobbyists who are trying to keep the system rigged so that it benefits them, not ordinary Americans.

But we can't stop this greedy and reckless behavior unless we organize.

We need to take this to the streets, we need to write letters to the Congress and the President, we need to Move our Money from the big banks to the small ones, and we have to hold the big banks accountable. We can rein in the big banks and Wall Street--if we organize.

The good news is that widespread American outrage can drown out even Wall Street's lobbying clout - if we shout loud enough. Now is the time for action. The bill on financial reform has passed the House and is in the Senate Banking Committee. It is time to hold the big banks and the politicians who support them accountable. Now, following the speech, it is time to act, to rein in the big banks.