Ed Driscoll

From The Heartland: Strange 2010 Populist Omens


Strange rumbling from the heartland over the horrific excesses of the Obaconomy. First up, Guy Benson, talk radio host, and frequent Hugh Hewitt guest, writes at NRO’s media blog:

When I ventured home to northern New Jersey for Christmas, I happened to cross paths with a long-time family friend. She and I used to talk politics on a regular basis, differing in opinion nine times out of ten.  She is a lifelong Democrat voter, harbors a long-standing distaste for George W. Bush, and slants left on most issues — social and fiscal. In light of her political predilections, our conversation last week was pretty stunning.

YCR20090912She asked how my radio show has been going recently, noting that I’ve “had lots to talk about,” with a roll of her eyes.  I agreed that the political scene has been rather busy and that the current leadership leaves no shortage of talk topics.  Without any specific prompt from me, she uncorked an unsolicited rant against expanding government influence and spending that left me momentarily speechless.  She was particularly furious about the health-care debate (a family member is battling cancer), the “out-of-control” debt, and the “blatant lying” from those coordinating the show. Her best line?  “Just because I don’t want my kids paying off national debts for their entire lives doesn’t mean I’m a racist.” Being a good Democrat, she couldn’t quite bring herself to name names, but did noticeably bristle when I mentioned the unholy trinity of Obama/Reid/Pelosi.

Capping off the cathartic diatribe, she worried aloud how a government that “screws up Cash for Clunkers and runs the horrible post office” could possibly run the health care system. She angrily asserted that vote-buying maneuvers in the Senate “should be illegal” for decisions on important issues like changing the entire role of government, echoing Bill Kristol’s observations about what bothers average voters. She even hinted (I didn’t ask) that she was so turned off by Hopenchange, Inc., she voted for Republican Chris Christie in November’s gubernatorial election.

Throughout the entire discussion, I put forth my best effort to stifle a grin. I’d imagine “I-told-you so” isn’t necessarily the best tone to adopt with recent converts. Nonetheless, it was a spectacular development: A real-life, first-hand example of the conservative re-awakening America is experiencing, and anecdotal confirmation of the polling data energized conservatives have been poring over for months.

Happy New Year, Democrats. If you’ve lost this left-of-center suburban female from Jersey, you’re probably in for a world of hurt in 2010.

Meanwhile, this seems even stranger:

debt-starThe big banks on Wall Street, propped up by taxpayer money and government guarantees, have had a record year, making record profits while returning to the highly leveraged activities that brought our economy to the brink of disaster. In a slap in the face to taxpayers, they have also cut back on the money they are lending, even though the need to get credit flowing again was one of the main points used in selling the public the bank bailout. But since April, the Big Four banks — JP Morgan/Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo — all of which took billions in taxpayer money, have cut lending to businesses by $100 billion.

Meanwhile, America’s Main Street community banks — the vast majority of which avoided the banquet of greed and corruption that created the toxic economic swamp we are still fighting to get ourselves out of — are struggling. Many of them have closed down (or been taken over by the FDIC) over the last 12 months. The government policy of protecting the Too Big and Politically Connected to Fail is badly hurting the small banks, which are having a much harder time competing in the financial marketplace. As a result, a system which was already dangerously concentrated at the top has only become more so.

We talked about the outrage of big, bailed-out banks turning around and spending millions of dollars on lobbying to gut or kill financial reform — including “too big to fail” legislation and regulation of the derivatives that played such a huge part in the meltdown. And as we contrasted that with the efforts of local banks to show that you can both be profitable and have a positive impact on the community, an idea took hold: why don’t we take our money out of these big banks and put them into community banks? And what, we asked ourselves, would happen if lots of people around America decided to do the same thing? Our money has been used to make the system worse — what if we used it to make the system better?

Everyone around the table quickly got excited (granted we are an excitable group), and began tossing out suggestions for how to get this idea circulating.

Eugene, the filmmaker among us, remarked that the contrast between the big banks and the community banks we were talking about was very much like the story in the classic Frank Capra film It’s a Wonderful Life, where community banker George Bailey helps the people of Bedford Falls escape the grip of the rapacious and predatory banker Mr. Potter.

It was a lightbulb moment. And, unlike the vast majority of dinner conversations, the excitement over this idea didn’t end with dessert. It actually led to something — thanks in great part to Eugene and his remarkable team, who got to work and, in record time, created a brilliant, powerful, and inspiring video playing off the It’s a Wonderful Life concept. Watch it below.

Within a few days, the rest of the pieces fell into place, including an agreement with top financial analysts Chris Whalen and Dennis Santiago, who gave us access to their IRA (Institutional Risk Analytics) database. Using this tool, everyone will be able to plug in their zip code and quickly get a list of the small, solvent Main Street banks operating in their community.

reduce_govt_footprint_12-09The idea is simple: If enough people who have money in one of the big four banks move it into smaller, more local, more traditional community banks, then collectively we, the people, will have taken a big step toward re-rigging the financial system so it becomes again the productive, stable engine for growth it’s meant to be. It’s neither Left nor Right — it’s populism at its best. Consider it a withdrawal tax on the big banks for the negative service they provide by consistently ignoring the public interest. It’s time for Americans to move their money out of these reckless behemoths. And you don’t have to worry, there is zero risk: deposit insurance is just as good at small banks — and unlike the big banks they don’t provide the toxic dividend of derivatives trading in a heads-they-win, tails-we-lose fashion.

Who is this populist proponent of small government fighting the good fight against the corporatist collusion of government and big business?

Arianna Huffington.

No, really!