8/28/2012 3:46 PM ET|
Retiree wants bold economic action
Lee Tint of Portland, Ore., is frustrated with his choices for president. The former math teacher says neither candidate is willing to get tough with banks.
Lee Tint of Portland, Ore.
What a dismal choice we've got for president, says retired schoolteacher Lee Tint: a former financier or a politician who is tied to bankers.
"We have a dishonest banking system, and the banking system is right in the middle of the whole economy," said Tint, 69. "And it needs to be fixed with a heavy tool, and I just don't see it coming from anywhere."
By now the damage is well-known: risky home loans, rogue investments and the unchecked growth of banks "too big to fail."
"Banks now go into trading for themselves. It's not that they are acting as some kind of agent for people," said Tint. "What we have now, I think, (is) some of these bankers don't really consider themselves beholden to the United States. They are involved with pots of money here, there and all over the world."
When the government does try to monitor -- or even collect from -- financial institutions, banks maneuver around the laws through various loopholes, he said.
Particularly troubling, said Tint, is that neither presidential candidate seems to show any interest in reining in Big Finance to stabilize the economy and help the American people.
President Barack Obama installed Timothy Geithner, who has a long history with the banking industry, as secretary of the Treasury.
"I think Obama's getting a lot of funny advice," said Tint. "He has, I think, a lot of connections in the banking industry. And he has not taken any kind of decisive action even as far as the Frank-Dodd bill, which was kind of toothless."
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, signed into law in 2010, provides regulations aimed at preventing the kind of abusive lending practices that led to the financial crisis, and creates consumer protections, such as those that limit the kind of fees that banks can charge their customers.
Implementation of many of the regulations contained in Dodd-Frank have been stalled, however, following intense lobbying efforts by large banks. An April poll by AmericanBanker.com found that 57% of Americans shared Tint's belief that Dodd-Frank lacks the teeth to prevent another crash.
"At this point, we've never been out on a limb before with the banks the way we are right now," said Tint, who added that, following the 1929 crash, it was tough legislation championed by President Franklin Roosevelt that stabilized the economy. The 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, which gradually weakened and was officially repealed under President Bill Clinton in 1999, separated commercial and investment banking activities.
"That bill from Roosevelt protected us by separating the investment part of the bank from the trading part of the bank," said Tint. By contrast, Republican candidate Mitt Romney talks about easing government regulations, he said.
"Romney, he doesn't seem inclined at all to jump in there. He talks about regulation as being a problem," said Tint.
Tint, who taught math at a public middle school, has a private health plan with his pension that supplements his Medicare benefits. Without that insurance, he would face steep charges for his diabetes medicine as he enters the so-called doughnut hole, the gap that requires seniors to pay the full cost of their medicines that falls between about $2,800 and $6,100 annually. (Under the Affordable Care Act, the doughnut hole will be phased out by 2020.)
"Some fool had this notion that this would be a good thing, that you paid out and it then just stopped," said Tint. "But how is this a benefit? You have a bunch of old people who can't afford their medicine anymore. How does this make our country great?"
"That's why I don't understand the conservative position," said Tint, who describes himself as a liberal who votes for Democratic presidents. "But they're all hot to go to war."
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