The Hightower Report

A Banker Who Gets It; and The Corporate-Funded Merry-Go-Round

A Banker Who Gets It

Populist banker – now those are two words you rarely see linked together.

But Thomas Hoenig, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Mo., truly is a rarity. Firmly rooted in small-town Iowa and Kansas, he has never aspired to be part of the Wall Street-Washington power elite, and he shows no hesitancy in challenging their financial orthodoxy and obsequious kowtowing to the preening barons of big banking.

In a recent New York Times op-ed piece, Hoenig laid into the claims by the political and financial establishment that the massive taxpayer bailout and subsequent regulatory "reforms" of Wall Street have fixed the banking system. Let me give it to you in his own words: "[A]fter this round of bailouts, the five largest financial institutions are 20 percent larger than they were before the crisis. They control $8.6 trillion in financial assets – the equivalent of nearly 60 percent of [America's] gross domestic product. Like it or not, these firms remain too big to fail."

How big are they? So enormous, says Hoenig, that "their chief executives cannot manage them, nor can their regulators provide adequate oversight."

And, countering the contrived contention of the Washington-Wall Street axis that only huge banks can compete globally, Hoenig points out that our banking system must be structured to serve our national interest, not the insatiable self-interests of multimillionaire bankers and billionaire speculators. Again, his own words: "More financial firms – with none too big to fail – would mean less concentrated financial power, less concentrated risk and better access and service for American businesses and the public."

How about that? A big-time banker who wants to shrink the giants of Wall Street, believing that bankers should serve us, rather than vice versa.

The Corporate-Funded Merry-Go-Round

Headline: "AT&T buys 700 copies of Perry book."

It's a story about Rick Perry, our splendidly coiffed Republican governor, but it's really about how corporations, corporate-funded right-wing organizations, and corporate-backed politicians happily hum "Kumbaya" together.

In December, Perry gave another of his rants on how he hates Washington's power elites. Ironically, his speech was in Washington – delivered to an appreciative audience of lobbyists and other Washington power elites. Perry thinks irony is a county in Iran, so he missed the absurdity of it all.

AT&T, which sponsored the luncheon where the guv held forth, has beaucoup business before the Texas state government and is a half-million-dollar donor to Perry's gubernatorial campaigns. They're tight. So tight that the corporation shelled out $13,000 to buy 700 copies of the governor's book, giving them to every attendee. Perry donated his share of the sale to the Texas Public Policy Foundation. What's that? A virulently far-right corporate front that develops much of Perry's agenda – and, in turn, backs him. Then there's the American Legislative Exchange Council, the group that invited Perry to do his shtick about the horrors of inside-Washington elites. ALEC is richly funded by such extremist laissez-faire corporate barons as the multibillionaire Koch brothers, who are among the most elite players in Washington.

So, a corporate front group has a meeting in Washington, inviting the ambitious corporate-cozy Texas governor to strut his stuff at a lobbyist-infested lunch sponsored by his favor-seeking AT&T pals who buy a bunch of his books, the proceeds of which go to another corporate front that backs Perry in exchange for his carrying their agenda. Everybody's back gets scratched – and it's all done under the pretense of fighting power-hungry elites.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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Thomas Hoenig, Rick Perry, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Wall Street, financial reform, AT&T, Texas Public Policy Foundation, American Legislative Exchange Council

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