Monday, June 17, 2024

AR-Sen: Does Financial Reform Resonate With Voters?

An article at The Huffington Post — HuffPo, as the kids say — discusses the building momentum against Wall Street.  Using very broad strokes, the article points to the proposed financial reform bill and the activities of groups like SEIU and the AFL-CIO as evidence of an anti-Wall Street bent that is becoming part of the American political zeitgeist.

I mention this article, however, because of this:

I’m also pleased that politicians are starting to get more aggressive about this issue. Bill Halter called over the weekend for Blanche Lincoln to give back all of her money from Goldman Sachs executives, and that’s a great political tactic. We all ought to be asking our politicians to stop raising money from these big banks that have wrecked out economy and been bailed out. The more we can get politicians to unhook from the big banks’ money, the better off we will be.

While I don’t disagree that less big-bank influence in political races would be a good thing, I’m not sure I buy that Halter’s move was a “great political tactic.”  More accurately, I’m not sure that I buy that it was a great political tactic in Arkansas.

Blake touched on this briefly yesterday when he noted that “derivative reform” as a concept doesn’t really resonate with Arkansas voters.  A very small percentage of Arkansans (relative to the percentage in, say, New York) have any need or desire to understand derivatives, and the issue is confusing enough that those without need to know typically do not know anything beyond what they hear on the nightly news.

However, taking that a step further (and tying it back into the HuffPo quote), I wonder if “financial reform” as opposed to simply “derivative reform” resonates with Arkansas voters?  Sure, a candidate can point to things like “bad economy” and “bailouts” to stir the emotions of some voters, but that doesn’t mean that the voter won’t still tune out the part where the candidate explains what needs to be done in terms of reform.  “Bailout” is something concrete — money given to a failing bank; “financial reform” is a buzzword that, to most listeners, seems to mean… well.. “no bailouts,” I guess.

As I write this, I’ve suddenly realized that the dichotomy between problems that can be encapsulated in a simple, Fox-News-style soundbite and solutions that require an understanding of financial markets, economics, and myriad other topics is a big reason that the Tea Party has been successful.  Rather than use “bailout” as a segue into how to fix the regulatory scheme, they use it to provoke an emotional response that, in turn, feeds the inane cries of “socialism!” and “impeach!” and “derr takin’ our jeeeoooorbs!!!”  No need to think, Tea Party voter; just get really angry and listen to Aunt Sarah and Uncle Glenn tell you the story about Big Bad Washington.  And, should anyone ask you what should be done to fix things, just scream about your high taxes, mention possible revolution, try to reference Hitler or Communist Russia, and (above all) pat your trusty sidearm.

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