A bully in the pulpit

Bullying, the government’s anti-bullying website tells us, can happen anywhere, and is not constrained by, “age, gender, or education level.” As we all know, it involves the use of force and intimidation—and even the Internet—to harm others, and relies on imbalance of power to give the bully an edge over a victim who may not have the power to defend himself. Or, as the president and his advisors might call it, “business as usual.”

Unbalanced by dropping public support and the dissension in his own party, the president has decided to put the “bully” in the bully pulpit. Having looked around for an acceptable scapegoat to divert public ire from himself, President Barack Obama settled on the banks as the perfect victim. Because as every grade-schooler knows, no one is going to leap to the defense of the unpopular kid on the schoolyard.

It started with a disingenuous complaint about the $5 debit card fee being instituted by Bank of America. Sounding less like the leader of the free world than the poster of an angry Facebook status, the President used the power of his office to criticize a business policy spurred in part by the financial “reform” package he supported. A package that—it should be noted—limited the amount of fees that the banks could collect from retailers, thereby passing the cost of the regulation from large corporate retailers to the ordinary consumer.

Lest the public think that this was a simple ill-judged off–the-cuff remark rather than an attack on the nature of capitalism, the president then doubled down, telling ABC News that the banks don’t have an, “inherent right” to a “certain amount of profit.”

There’s a phrase that should send a chill down the spine of anyone concerned about the possibility of government interference with private industry.

The suggestion that the State has the power to limit profits and disrupt business practices and policies is transformed into a real threat when you realize that this is exactly what Obama intends to do with the newly-created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a powerful agency with an obscure mission and lacking the checks and balances of congressional appropriation or presidential removal of its head once confirmed.

Put aside whether Bank of America policy is fair or even wise. That’s beyond the point. Businesses in the U.S. have the right to make whatever hair-brained, possibly destructive policy they want. Ask Netflix about that . . . or try a McRib (because not all strange business decisions turn out badly). And we, the public, have the ultimate check and balance of being able to vote on that policy with our feet and our wallets.

The president, however, has become a bully in the pulpit, using the power of his office to interfere with business policy decisions with the implied threat of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as his weapon.

Even now, Obama is appropriating the language of the anti-Wall Street, anti-business protestors to bolster his image as the guy defending us from the financial baddies.

Too bad he doesn’t realize that he’s only reinforcing the impression that he’s driving us deeper and deeper into the recession with his constant attacks on an already beleaguered financial sector. Hail to the (bully-in) chief.

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