Where's the Anger?

There's a smart piece in The Washington Post this morning about the effort in Congress to contain some of the more outlandish banking fees being imposed on customers. In particular, overdraft fees, which everyone knows to be high, are targeted. In this case, these are fees banks impose after all but encouraging people to overspend and not telling them that they're overdrawn. It's amazing that we've gotten to this point--trillions in bailouts, an economic collapse brought about in no small measure because of the irresponsible behavior of banks, and this is the kind of de minimus regulation that's being considered? I'm sure there's still a populist streak in American life although it seems most animated when it comes to Obama's birth certificate or hatred of Dick Cheney. But in terms of sustained anger and the actors who helped create and perpetuate the crisis that we find ourselves in, it seems sorely lacking. Have there been any protests on the Washington mall about bank lending practices from housing to student loans? Is anybody proposing a boycott of, say, Bank of America?

I recognize the moral ambiguity of the mess we're in. Banks were not the only ones at fault, and to the degree that homeowners and other greedy players got in over their heads, well, the blame can go around. Banks were not the only bad actors here and, of course, not all banks share the same degree of culpability. Still, how did we find ourselves in this place where anger at banks is at best a low grumble, a complaint rather than a call to action. We still have no serious financial regulations in shape after the crisis and a modest bill like the one being proposed about overdraft fees is about all the anger the political system can muster. Well, we wouldn't want it to distract from Joe Wilson's outburst, Obama's czars or the other real threats to the republic.

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Matthew Cooper is a managing editor (White House) for National Journal.

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