In Salon, Andrew Leonard writes:
Call it the amazing bank bailout boomerang. Even though few things enrage Tea Party rebels more than government checks made out to Wall Street financial companies, the reverse dynamic does not seem to be a problem. The top 12 Senatorial candidates most favored by Tea Partiers have already hauled in $4.6 million in campaign contributions from Wall Street. Even more amazing is a tidbit reported by the Washington Post:
The two top recipients of money from companies receiving TARP funds are the top two House Republicans, Minority Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio) with $200,000 and Republican Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) with $187,000. They are followed by the ranking members of two key House committees, Spencer Bachus (Ala.) on Financial Services and Dave Camp (Mich.) on the tax-writing committee.
Let’s spell that out: The Wall Street banks that were bailed out with taxpayer money are using their profits to bankroll Republicans who now claim to be unalterably opposed to any more bailouts, ever, for all time, in any universe — even though the original TARP bailout was a Republican idea, signed into law by a Republican president, with the strong backing of the Republican leadership of both the House and Senate.
OK. We know that Wall Street always backs the likely winner, and its priorities here are obvious: weaken financial reform legislation and head off any tax hikes that could discomfit the wealthy. But there is still a massive paradox in play. Republican electoral momentum is in no small part fueled by Tea Party resentment against the government/Wall Street nexus. The roots of that Tea Party anger can be traced directly back to one signal event: the bank bailout.
The TARP bank bailout was extraordinarily unpopular with both the left and the right. While the financial crisis caused by irresponsible banks crushed average Americans, causing millions to lose both their homes and jobs, the banks got a massive get-out-of-jail-free card. Never mind the (probably valid) rationalization that it all would have been much worse if the banking system had simply been allowed to fail. That may well be true, but it’s equally true that the banks got bailed out while the majority of Americans got screwed. There are plenty of other motivating forces behind Tea Party rage — fear of big government “socialism” and racial antagonism, to name just two — but that sense of basic unfairness generated by the sight of fat cat elites getting away with murder is the bedrock foundation underlying populist anger.