The Republican field doesn’t understand its own newfound financial populism

Wall Street is crazy unpopular, which is a problem for a political party whose core economic platform involved giving more money to people who work on Wall Street. This being the case, the candidates at last night’s debate channeled their innermost Elizabeth Warren to explain to the voters out there why their economic plans wouldn’t do what everyone assumes they’ll totally do: take the pressure off of the very financial institutions that the rest of us see as greedy and untrustworthy.

But economic populism’s a new game for the GOP. And as Politico’s chief economics correspondent Ben White pointed out in his debate recap, they haven’t learned their positions yet.

Asked if he would save failing banks, Jeb Bush, who has raised tens of millions of dollars from Wall Street, dodged the question, saying we “shouldn’t have another financial crisis.” He said he would ensure that by raising capital requirements. Trouble is, capital requirements are already much higher than they were before the financial crisis and big banks are already tying to get smaller.

Marco Rubio, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Marco Rubio, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Marco Rubio argued that “these banks go around bragging” that they are now labeled by Wall Street regulators as systemically important. In fact, big banks hate this label and the tougher capital requirements it brings. MetLife is suing the government over being labeled as a systemically significant institution.

Ben Carson mixed issues when discussing Wall Street policy, arguing that “some of the monetary and Fed policies that we are using makes it very easy” for Wall Street and other companies to “buy back their stock and drive that price up artificially. Those are the kinds of things that led to the problem in the first place.” No one has ever suggested that corporate stock buybacks were a cause of the financial crisis.

Ted Cruz suggested a return to the gold standard, an idea widely rebuked by economists of all partisan stripes as a disaster that would make it impossible for a central bank to fight recessions and tie the value of the dollar to the availability of gold, a finite resource. The Great Depression ended in part because the United States dumped the gold standard.

Cruz (whose wife worked at Goldman Sachs) and John Kasich (who worked at Lehman Brothers) also got into a heated exchange about whether they would have bailed out the banks during the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Cruz said he wouldn’t; Kasich said it was necessary; neither they nor the moderator seemed to think it was relevant that, should the banks go under again, the government has insured everyone’s deposits up to $250,000:

Rubio also made the unchallenged assertion that the banks were so big in the first place because of government regulation, and that the best way to shrink them back down to a manageable size would be to repeal Dodd-Frank. This is literally the opposite of true.

All this is to say that the Republicans know that their donor-driven policies are on the wrong side of American public opinion, and they’re going to have to spend the next year pretending that they’re something they’re not. That may work in a primary campaign where everyone on the debate stage is weighed down by the same problem, but they can’t keep that act up through the whole campaign season.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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13 Responses to “The Republican field doesn’t understand its own newfound financial populism”

  1. Elizabeth Joseph says:

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  2. BeccaM says:

    The GOP’s only solution to the current financial situation is to recreate the situation in the mid-2000s which led to the financial sector collapse and massive taxpayer-funded bailout.

    Which, when you think about it, isn’t a bug but the intended feature. Lots of banksters became significantly wealthier as a result of the bubble and bailouts, and the Republicans want to make it happen again because that’s what their billionaire owners are demanding.

  3. Indigo says:

    Fascinating. Scary. And we don’t dare say “It can’t happen here” because obviously, it can.

  4. Don Chandler says:

    Carson’s response to minimum wage increases showed how the republicans want poorer people to play a different game than the 1%. It’s particularly striking as he appears as a Black man telling Blacks that getting more money (minimum wage hike) would make jobs scarcer. But Carson never says CEO’s shouldn’t take a pay increase. It’s a clear double standard. How much does a minimum wage hike raise a hamburger at macD’s?

  5. PrahaPartizan says:

    Hardly anyone heard when Paul slammed Trump’s ignorance about China’s not being included in the TPP. When reality doesn’t matter, anything can be accepted as true by authoritarian followers.

  6. PrahaPartizan says:

    Where do Kasich’s supporters go? What about Fiorina’s? Trump has his committed supporters and Carson his own crazies, none of whom are likely to break to another candidate until after the initial round of caucuses or elections. All Bush need do is last out Kasich and Fiorina and he’ll treble his vote total into double digits, suddenly making him respectable again. Paul’s isolationist policies are separating him from the current Republican mainstream and his weak campaign will likely find his supporters drifting into Trump’s column. The Republican Party is rapidly morphing into the New American Party.

  7. Indigo says:

    The one about not having heard of FDIC bothers me more than the rest of the nonsense. They don’t even grasp how the existing structure works. That makes them the kind of damned fools that pull the corner stone out first, just to see what it does.

  8. Indigo says:

    Alt 168 = ¿

  9. Indigo says:

    Ha! You made me look.

  10. Indigo says:

    Oh, dear me! We don’t say that name here in Fla’wd. But you nailed it, many Floridians will not vote for the Jebster ever again because of that horrifying travesty of health care.

  11. Hue-Man says:

    I nominate ç (French “c cédille”); something hard turns into something soft!

  12. Jeb Bush’s campaign is on life-support, and we all know how well that works out when he’s involved. Even Bob Dole’s ED medicine can’t get Jeb’s exclamation point back up so now it limps like a backwards question mark. ʕ

    He’ll flog this dead horse for $$$ until the rubes and the billionaires are less responsive than Terri Schiavo!!

  13. nicho says:

    You could have ended the headline after the fifth word.

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