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The Language of Financial Reform, Democrat-style

What follows are some ideas I had for setting the tone of the debate on financial reform. Just as with health reform, conservatives have already got their financial reform talking points from Frank Luntz, propagandist-in-chief. Following his format, I decided to put together a few talking points of our own, which coincidentally, happen to be grounded in truth, a word Luntz really doesn’t understand. (Full memo here (PDF))

When addressing the financial crisis, never forget it happened while on President Bush’s watch.

Yes, feel the pain. We’re all feeling pain. But never, ever forget that it was President George W. Bush who was in charge when it happened. Never forget that “deer in the headlights” look on his face when he announced the need for TARP, and by all means, remind voters of that every time you discuss the need for financial reform.

Conservatives used the meltdown to redistribute wealth

Conservatives think government policies caused the bubble and the crash. They want to blame Fannie and Freddie for the meltdown.

The bubble and crash were caused by greedy gamblers allowed to speculate with our retirement funds and savings accounts.

Key terms:

  • Greedy gamblers
  • Conservative corporate cronyism
  • Bush Bailout

Conservatives ruin government regulatory agencies, then blame government for the crisis.

Nowhere is this more obvious than with the financial meltdown. Despite the Savings and Loan debacle during the Reagan years, despite Michael Milken’s criminal wrongdoing, despite ignoring the earliest indicators of the toxicity of derivatives and securitized debt, despite the Orange County meltdown and bankruptcy in 1994 attributabe to derivatives, the SEC still adopted standards in 2004 which allowed for only 10% underlying capitalization and erroneous risk formulas. This was not accidental. Conservatives created the crisis in order to shift money from the middle class to the upper class, and then tried to turn the argument on its head by blaming the victims via the demonization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The need for Bush bailouts proves markets cannot self-regulate. The American people deserve to have the government look out for their interests rather than leaving Wall Street to their own devices.

Key terms

  • Toxic traders
  • Market mayhem
  • Bush banking buddies

Consumers count

Financial reform isn’t needed to protect the banks and Wall Street; it’s needed to protect consumers and small investors on Main Street. Conservatives used taxpayers’ funds to bail out Goldman Sachs and AIG. Liberals want financial reforms to protect consumers from ever having to do such a thing again, and will prevent the market abuses that caused the Bush bailouts.


We don’t need more corporate cronyism. We need solid consumer protections that put the interests of Main Street ahead of Wall Street, protect honest people who pay their bills on time and allow all Americans to seek the American Dream.

Key terms

  • Consumer protections
  • Wall Street accountability
  • No more back-office deals
  • Kill the goose laying Goldman-Sachs’ golden eggs

Conservatives don’t care

Handing bankers the keys to the Federal Reserve is not the answer. Even though some banks have paid back their Bush bailout money, AIG has not, but that doesn’t stop them from paying their executives huge bonuses while taxpayers’ money funds their bonus pool. Not only that, but their bonuses are not even tied to performance.


Hard-working Americans deserve better than this. Bankers and brokers gambled without regard to the security of their investors’ money and then paid themselves obscene bonuses with the funds set aside to rescue them. It’s time for consumers to take charge.

Key terms

  • Bailout bonanza
  • Big Bonus Bingo
  • Main Street before Wall Street

Got more? Add them in the comments.

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