Gangster government returns: Nice little bank ya got there . . .

Top White House officials have been muscling the big banks to get them to stop lobbying for changes in Senator Christopher Dodd’s financial regulation bill.

The meeting included top bank CEOs, including Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase and Brian Moynihan of Bank of America. Wielding the muscle were longtime political consultant David Axelrod and the distinguished economist Larry Summers. Bloomberg has the story:

During one exchange, executives raised concern over the administration’s criticism of the industry’s efforts to influence the bill, according to one participant. Summers responded by calling on the industry to cease running ads against the bill and to stop its lobbyists from trying to insert loopholes in the legislation, the person said.

In other words, abandon your First Amendment right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Or to put it in Chicago language, Nice little bank ya got there. Wouldn’t want anything to happen to it . . . .

As I argue in my Examiner column today, the Dodd bill would actually give the big banks an enormous competitive advantage by effectively conferring “too big to fail” status on them. Nevertheless, I still think the banks are within their rights to lobby for changes in the Dodd bill—which if it’s drafted as poorly as the health care bill will contain all manner of unpleasant and unintended surprises for all concerned.

But the White House officials are making clear the character of the new regime they’re trying to impose. We’re doing you favors, so shut up and take whatever medicine we prescribe without protest. Last year I characterized the government’s muscling of secured creditors and favors to the United Auto Workers in the General Motors and Chrysler bankruptcies as “gangster government.” I predicted there would be more examples. Here it is.

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