Archive for February 1st, 2011

My Inner Conflict from being a Republican

Through the months I’ve written this blog, I’ve generally avoided political debates.  Foreclosure defense, as I see it, should not be a matter of Democrat versus Republican.  It should be a matter of right versus wrong – of applying the law and disavowing fraud.  Unfortunately, many in our country seem intent on making foreclosure a political issue.  If you’re pro-homeowner, you must be a Democrat (and vice versa); if you’re pro-bank, you must be a Republican (and vice versa).  As a life-long Republican, this drives me nuts.  In fact, as I continue to fight foreclosures on behalf of homeowners, I’ve come to question just what it means to be a Republican. 

You see, I’ve always been a Republican.  I was raised in a Republican household.  I’m socially conservative.  I’m pro-life.  I’m Catholic.  I believe in the free market system and that excess government involvement in the private sector is not a good thing.  I believe Americans know how to spend their money better than the government does.  The failure of HAMP and how the banks put all of the bailout money in their pockets (instead of lending to the public, as intended) are two good examples of the government wasting our tax dollars.  It’s been a number of years, but I recall my Economics professors at Wake Forest being free-market advocates as well, and undoubtedly this is why.

In this same vein, I’ve always believed in the trickle down theory espoused by the Republican party.  If you help businesses, it will create more goods and services and more jobs for middle and lower class persons – at least, that’s how the theory goes. 

The problem, of course, is that, in recent years, I’ve seen the Republicans’ theory of trickle-down economics get completely obliterated.  At this point, how can anyone legitimately argue that “trickle-down economics” works?  Remember, banks took all of the bailout money and put it in their own pockets.  Wall Street got bailed out, but there was no “trickle down” – the rich bankers got richer while mainstream America continued to suffer (through continued unemployment and a foreclosure crisis that shows no signs of slowing down). 

By virtually all accounts, big banks like Bank of America would not have existed but for the bailout from U.S. taxpayers.  Yet Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan managed to pocket a $10 million salary in 2010.  How can this be? 

Look, I believe in the capitalist system.  Americans who work harder, have more education, offer a service that is in demand … these people should be rewarded financially.  Professional athletes, Hollywood actors, Bill Gates, the founders of Facebook, lawyers, doctors … people like this  should not be begrudged because our society places a value on the services they provide.  In fact, I admit Brian Moynihan provides a service, running one of the nation’s biggest banks.  However, it thoroughly and completely disgusts me to see him (and other, similarly-situated CEOs at the big banks) pocketing unconscionable profits, at the expense of Americans everywhere, when banks like BOA exist because of Americans’ taxpayer dollars. 

What the big banks are doing is not capitalism.  Bank of America took billions of dollars of taxpayer money and stuffed it into its own pockets.  When you rely on government handouts, that’s not capitalism.  That’s not to say there isn’t a time and a place for (some) government subsidies, but $10 million, in one year, to one guy?  At a time when mainstream America continues to suffer?  However you want to define it, what BOA has done is not OK. 

Hence, from a political perspective, what do I do?  I remain socially conservative, pro-life, and Catholic, and in that sense I’m still a Republican.  But I’m thoroughly disgusted at how nobody in the Republican party seems to care that “trickle-down economics” is not working.  Wall Street got bailed out, and the big banks are recording record profits, yet unemployment remains rampant, the foreclosure crisis shows no signs of slowing down, and mainstream America continues to suffer.  How can anyone think this is OK?  More troubling, how can I align myself with a party that seems to think this is OK?  Honestly, I’m not sure how to answer that.  I’m not saying I’m a Democrat, but I’m not a Republican at this point, either. 

One could argue that anyone, in a rough economy, would do what BOA did, i.e. take any monies received and stuff it in their pockets.  After all, when the going gets tough, people tend to look out for themselves first.  Hence, it may well be that if homeowners had received that same bailout money that it wouldn’t have stimulated the economy any more than the bailout BOA received.  But I can’t help but wonder – how many Americans would have been helped with the $10 million given to Moynihan in 2010? 

I suspect many Republicans would deny being “OK” with the struggles of mainstream America.  If so, then prove it.  BOA was willing to hold its hand out when times were bad – force it to pay more back, in the form of higher taxes, now that things are good (for it, anyway).  Implement policies requiring higher taxes, payments, or penalties.  No matter what, though, stop sitting back, doing nothing, and watching Wall Street get richer while Main Street suffers.

Mark Stopa

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