Suing, instead of thanking

SUING, INSTEAD OF THANKING…. Now that major banks and financial institutions are seeing huge profits, and paying out multi-million-dollar bonuses, President Obama has proposed a new “Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee.” The industry is not fond of the idea.

The president believes the banks accepted the bailout money when they were on the verge of collapse, but have since recovered nicely, so it’s time for the industry to pay Americans back for the money we loaned them.

To show their gratitude for Americans bailing them out after their irresponsibility brought the global system to its knees, Wall Street executives are considering a lawsuit to fight the fee proposed by Obama.

Wall Street’s main lobbying arm has hired a top Supreme Court litigator to study a possible legal battle against a bank tax proposed by the Obama administration, on the theory that it would be unconstitutional, according to three industry officials briefed on the matter.

In an e-mail message sent last week to the heads of Wall Street legal departments, executives of the lobbying group, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, wrote that a bank tax might be unconstitutional because it would unfairly single out and penalize big banks, according to these officials, who did not want to be identified to preserve relationships with the group’s members.

Paul Krugman added, “[T]his isn’t quite the classic definition of chutzpah, which is when you murder your parents, then plead for mercy because you’re an orphan. It’s more like being a drunk driver who, after killing a number of pedestrians, received life-saving treatment at a nearby hospital — and responds by suing the doctor.”

As for the politics, I continue to marvel at the fact that conservative Republicans, including Scott Brown, are taking the banks’ side on this. It’s tempting to think Americans would reject such nonsense, but then again, Massachusetts seems poised to elect Brown anyway, and the GOP seems largely unafraid of pretending to be populist while fighting to shield Wall Street from burdens — such as paying us back for the money we spent to rescue them from their own recklessness.