For a glimpse at what makes the US Chamber of Commerce such an effective force for reactionary politics, you really need to read this post from my colleague Pat Garofalo. Big banks have a problem. They want to block the creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency so that it’ll be easy for them to rip people off. But big banks aren’t popular. They are seeking to “move the spotlight off the unpopular commercial banks and mortgage lenders that are the target of the legislation and muster a roster of more sympathetic opponents.”
How do you do that? Well, getting the Chamber of Commerce to mobilize some small businessmen to act as your fronts helps:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is hosting a “small-business fly-in” day on Wednesday to discuss the “harmful impact” of the CFPA. After a panel discussion that Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) is expected to participate in, Chamber lobbyists will lead small-business owners to a series of meetings on Capitol Hill against the creation of the CFPA.
Now as Pat observes, this really doesn’t make sense:
However, the notion that the CFPA will cripple small business doesn’t hold much water. First, the Chamber’s often invoked charge that the CFPA will be able to regulate small businesses like butchers and florists is false, as the legislation clearly exempts “merchants, retailers, and sellers of nonfinancial services.”
What you’re seeing here is the benefits of solidarity in action. The CFPA won’t be bad for small business. It will be bad for big financial firms. But while big financial firms still have a lot of money and elite influence, they’re not a good public face right now. So small businessmen will front for them. What does the Chamber’s small business arm get out of this? Nothing, really. But there are a range of other issues where small business owners really do want to fight against progressive ideas—small business owners don’t want to pay taxes, don’t want to deal with environmental or public safety regulations, etc.
And via the good offices of the Chamber, business groups with different interests are enticed to maintain a united front. Many firms have no particular stake in the cap-and-trade debate, but they all stand together in defense of polluters. Many have no particular stake in the health care debate, but they all stand together in defense of the status quo. Many have no particular stake in the CFPA debate, but they stand together in defense of the big banks’ interests. It’s solidarity on behalf of the ruling class, and it’s devilishly effective.