From Fat Cat to Pussycat

By ObamaNerd December 14, 2009

bankingObama's Dec 7th taping of "60 Minutes" aired last night.  He talked about Afghanistan (we'll know by the end of 2010 whether our new Afghan strategy is working) as well as the economy, jobs, party crashers (bad publicity hounds, bad!), health care and the ills of Wall Street.  I didn't find much of the interview all that revealing or new as I had heard much of this same language over the last few weeks. I understand this is for the 60 Minutes crowd (pass the applesauce, Nana!), who may need some reminding that Obama inherited this mess and he's doing the best he can.  And if that reminder helps shape their view of how Obama is doing as we head into the midterm elections, all the better.

What was interesting was not so much the words used in the interview, but the tone, particularly the tone against Wall Street.  It was populist, firebrand-y and reminiscent of the 2008 campaign trail.  Specifically, Obama stated, "I didn't think when I came to office that I would be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street."  Ouchie.

He goes on: "They [Fat Cats] still don't get it. They don't get it. They're still puzzled: Why is it that people are still mad at the banks?  Well, let's see.  You know, you guys are drawing down $10, $20 million bonuses and after America went through the worst economic year that it's gone through in decades. And you guys caused the problem? And we have 10 percent unemployment? Why do you think people might be a little frustrated?"  Tough talk.  Mama likes.

Awkward timing.  The show aired one day before a scheduled O-meeting with the CEOs of the twelve largest banks in the US. Would Obama keep up the strong, populist tone?  Er, not quite.

Obama—from today's meeting:  "My main message in today's meeting was very simple: That America's banks received extraordinary assistance from American taxpayers to rebuild their industry, and now that they're back on their feet we expect an extraordinary commitment from them to help rebuild our economy."  Hmm. That's not very tough guy.

US Bancorp CEO Richard Davis described the meeting as "very productive" without disagreements or contention and sarcastically noted, "he didn't call us any names."

Is the tough O-talk working?  Earlier today, Citicorp announced it will repay $20 billion of TARP money and exit the program altogether. Also, Bank of America pledged shortly after the meeting $5 billion in loan support to small businesses and they are in plans to repay their TARP loan.  A far cry from the assistance taxpayers provided banks but possibly signs they are moving in the right direction.

In other Fat Cat ballbusting news, the House did pass sweeping regulations of the banking industry on Friday.
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