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The Movement Against the Banks

A massive rally in Chicago next week aims to express public displeasure with the massive bank bailout outside the American Bank Association annual meeting. Protesters will converge at 11:30 on Monday, October 26, at 301 North Water Street, where the meeting is taking place.

"The same financial institutions that caused the economic crisis and took billions in taxpayer bailouts are back to earning incredible profits," rally organizers—including Public Citizen, the AFL-CIO, and Change to Win—declare. "Meanwhile, Americans face shrinking pensions, rising foreclosures and unemployment, state budget cuts, predatory lending, outrageous overdraft fees, and sky-high credit card interest rates."

Protesters will demand oversight and accountability and reforms that would rein in the banks. It is an important moment, since Congress takes up regulatory legislation, including the idea of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, this month.

The Obama Administration is backing the idea of a consumer protection agency, but shying away from other reforms, including breaking up the "too-big-to-fail" banks and separating commercial banking activities from the investment activities that led to the current financial crisis. Today's New York Times includes a profile of Paul Volcker, the Federal Reserve chairman from 1979 to 1987, describing how he has been marginalized by Obama's pro-Wall Street economic advisors for suggesting a return to the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, which, before deregulation, mandated that commercial banking and investment activities be separate.

"His disagreement with the Obama people on whether to restore some version of Glass-Steagall appears to have contributed to published reports that his influence in the administration is fading and that he is rarely if ever in the small Washington office assigned to him," the Times reports.

Meanwhile, Bankster, "your go-to site for updates on the financial services re-regulation fight in Congress and for progressive net-roots campaigning against the big boys on Wall Street"—is up and running.

The site, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy, aims to be the most comprehensive resource on the web for lay people who want to understand the battle for control over the financial services industry.

The site calls for criminal penalties for the bankers: "On the one-year anniversary of the Banksters blowing a hole in the global economy, no employee of a major American bank or financial institution is behind bars," Bankster points out. "Compare this to what happened after the Savings and Loan heist almost 20 years ago. No less than 1,852 S&L officials were prosecuted and 1,072 were jailed. Over 500 CEOs and top officers were indicted. What is going on here? Don't we believe in holding people accountable anymore? Tell the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI to get cracking!"

Among the other citizens' groups featured on the site are the "10 percent is enough" campaign that brings together leaders from all the major world religions to oppose usurious interest rates on moral grounds.

And just in time for Halloween, the anti-death-bonds campaign focuses on an issue Michael Moore brought to light in his new movie, "Capitalism: A Love Story": employers and investment firms such as Goldman Sachs taking out life insurance policies on working people and naming themselves the beneficiaries, so they can benefit from your death.

All of these issues should galvanize public opposition to the banks' control of their own regulators in Washington. As Bankster puts it, "If you want to rein in the Banksters and if you think America deserves better than a ‘boom and bail’ economy, you need to muscle up and weigh in." Only engaged citizens can stop the banks.

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