New York's dynamic state attorney general reminded progressives at the Take Back the American Dream conference in Washington, D.C. that the right's efforts to fight financial regulation is far from divinely inspired.
"You don't build a movement with short-term tactics. You build a movement by understanding and change the way people think," Eric Schneiderman said. "The day everyone says in America, 'You know what? There's no missing page of Genesis that says there are separate tax rates for capital gains. There is nothing in Leviticus that says you may not regulate derivatives. This is not stuff that has to be.'"
"This is just a bunch of people who decided our public policy should be to redistribute all of the wealth in our society to a very small number of our people," Schneiderman said. "It's public policy. It's not ancient. It's not God, and we have the power to change it. That's what will enable us to break through the log jams to re-regulate the Dodd-Frank process. That's what will break through."
Indeed, 57 percent of the public believes that the Dodd-Frank legislation (PDF), which aimed to reign in Wall Street's behavior that lead to the 2008 financial crisis, doesn't give regulators enough power to reign in the financial sector, according to an April poll.
Admittedly, it's tough to get grassroots activists excited about financial regulation, but those who faced foreclosure could lend themselves to a natural activist group. "How many of you know someone who's been unfairly foreclosed on?" Wall Street reform group The New Bottom Line co-director Tracy Van Slyke asked. Hands in the audience shot up as a reminder of how widely the housing crisis affected Americans.
Schneiderman asked the activists in the audience to hold elected officials accountable. "We get from our public officials what we ask of them. One thing the public is sick of is dithering about these issues. They know in their gut something is wrong," he said.
[New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman via azipaybarah / Flickr]