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One Year After the Bank Bailout, We Still Need a People’s Economic Recovery

One year ago Jobs with Justice, a coalition of labor and community organizations, took to the streets to oppose the Bush Administration's bailout of Wall Street's banks and other financial institutions. We warned against transferring public money to private banks through Bush's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) without some level of public ownership and control. But the TARP passed as is, entrusting the banks to put money back into the economy and help put the brakes on the recession.

Instead, these corporate criminals stole our money.

The banks said they needed taxpayer money to continue lending and to keep the economy running, yet they refuse to extend credit to viable companies like Hartmarx and Republic Windows and Doors. They are forcing small businesses to close and costing thousands of workers their jobs. Today, unemployment stands at 9.7%.

Mortgage lenders have failed to work with homeowners to curtail foreclosures, even those who qualify for refinancing. Today, nearly 1 in 25 homes is in foreclosure.

So what have the banks spent our taxpayer dollars on? Over the last year, we've watched one corporate scandal after another unfold. The bailed-out financial industry has paid outrageous executive salaries and bonuses, thrown lavish parties on foreclosed properties, and spent millions lobbying against health care reform, banking regulations, and workers' rights legislation. We must put an end to these corporate crimes.

Today, some pundits are starting to talk about the "end of the recession." Wall Street seems to be back to business as usual, and some banks are even turning profits. But what about the rest of us? One year later, what do your finances look like?

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the Wall Street bailout. Jobs with Justice will be in the streets again to demand that the banks stop using our taxpayer dollars to lobby for corporate interests instead of financing the recovery. The banks must extend credit to companies facing short term economic problems in order to stop unnecessary layoffs and plant closings. They must work with people at risk of foreclosure, and stop evicting them from their homes.

When Obama took office, he and Congress passed an economic stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which included programs to help working people weather the economic downturn. This was a good start, but was clearly not enough to turn our economy around for working people.

We believe that our government can and must pass legislation that creates a better economy for everyone. The bailed-out banks are lobbying against the reforms that could help kick-start our economy and prevent future crises - financial reform, workers' rights legislation, health care reform, and mortgage regulation. We must not let the banks dictate an economic recovery for the top only. We need a people's economic recovery for us all.

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Sarita Gupta

Sarita Gupta is the executive director of Jobs with Justice, a national network of more than 40 local coalitions of labor, community, student, and faith organizations, working together to build a broader global movement for economic and social justice.

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