I spent most of last week in Washington DC, engaged in meetings with the American Bankers Association and the Independent Community Bankers of America. It was one of the few times of my 100+ trips to the nation’s capitol that I did not call on any senators or members of the Indiana congressional delegation.
Another distinguishing trait of this trip was that it coincided with a national gathering of hundreds of Occupy movement protestors, who joined with “Occupy DC” last Wednesday in a march on the White House. That day, Dec. 7, was rainy and bone-chilling, but I must say that the nasty weather did not deter the Occupy protestors. They piled into the streets in hoards, jamming traffic for hours. A cab driver told me that he had never experienced worse traffic in his 15 years of driving a cab in DC. I doubt that the Occupiers won his support.
I have written before about my lack of understanding as to what the Occupy movement’s goals are. My main concern, though—beyond last week’s traffic flow disruption—is the supportive treatment this goal-less movement continues to receive from the national cable news media, the president and the Obama administration. They use the Occupy movement as a segue into bashing the banking industry, as they bring up the mortgage foreclosure issues as an example of banks gone wild. However the president’s own draft of what later became the Dodd-Frank Act stated in its preamble that 96 percent of the subprime mortgages were made by nondepository institutions—in other words, not by banks. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, through continued legislative encouragement, bought most of those mortgages. Since then, banks have experienced a significant amount of foreclosures, becoming victims, along with many homeowners, of the damage done to the economy by those rogue, nonbank lenders.
Yet banks are the targets of most of the arrows. Why does our true story not resonate? Why do Congress, the president and the national cable news media—now spurred by the Occupy movement—continue to vilify the very industry that will have to lead our country, perhaps the world, out of these economic doldrums? I wish I had the answer.