Bankers tell Obama to back off


The American Bankers Association has a message for the president: Stop talking trash about banks.

In his unofficial State of the Union address Tuesday night, Barack Obama said that it's "unpopular ... to be seen as helping banks right now, especially when everyone is suffering in part from their bad decisions."

In a letter to the White House, ABA CEO Edward Yingling says bankers across the country were "disappointed and concerned" with rhetoric like that.

"Mr. President, of the over 8,000 banks in this country, very few ever made a single subprime loan, and they did not engage in the highly leveraged activities that brought down Wall Street firms," Yingling said.

Yingling referred the president to statements made by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the powerful chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, in which he said that the toxic mortgage lending that sparked the current crisis was done by mortgage brokers and others not subject to the strict rules that govern commercial banks.

"Mr. President, the failure to distinguish between Wall Street and the thousands of FDIC-insured banks across the country undermines the confidence in our banking industry, the industry which is the foundation on which our economic recovery must be built," Yingling said.

"We stand ready to work with your administration to promote policies that will clear the way to do what banks do best: finance business and families that are ready to move the economy forward. But these efforts will only be inhibited by misperceptions about our industry."


I think they make a good point. In fact it is against the law to denigrate the credit of a bank in most jurisdictions precisely because undermining the confidence in the banking system leads to runs on banks. I feel confident in my bank in Brenham and I am sure there are strong banks all over this country from Kansas to Omaha and beyond. One of the things very different about this downturn than the Great Depression is the strength of local banking.


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