Senate Democrats

Coming Soon: Wall St. Luntz’s Latest Talking Point

Coming soon to a set of Republican talking points near you: Wall Street consultant Frank Luntz’s latest brainstorm about how to protect the interests of Wall Street. If Republicans want to adopt the latest spin from their favorite Wall Street consultant and argue against  forcing big banks and Wall Street firms to pay for breaking up failed firms, that’s their choice. They are already trying to gut Democrats’ proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency, which would protect consumers against exactly the kind of abusive practices Luntz describes. But adopting another talking point from a political consultant who works for big banks like Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch would be just another of the many ways in which Republicans are standing up for Wall Street over the middle class.
 
The Plum Line, Greg Sargent’s blog – Frank Luntz’s New Talking Point: “Checkbook Tax”
 
Let no one underestimate Frank Luntz’s capacity for crafting a resonant talking point. And now that financial reg reform is moving forward, he’s got a new one for opponents to wield: “Checkbook tax.”
 
Luntz didn’t make a big show of announcing this latest concoction. It’s buried way down in this piece he wrote for The Huffington Post about how financial reform is not a slam dunk by any means for Dems. Here’s the key bit:

The Democrats supporting the current legislation have assured an anxious electorate that whatever funds are used to create whatever regulatory scheme created will come from the banks, not the taxpayers. Let me emphasize that so that even casual readers will catch it: the Democrats promise that you won’t pay for their legislation, banks will.
 
Really?
 
Since when have corporations ever paid taxes, fees or penalties? Employees end up paying in the form of lower salaries and benefits. Customers end up paying in the form of higher costs.
 
And in this case, every account holder will be forced to pay higher fees on their checking account and savings account. That’s you, my friendly reader. Can you say “checkbook tax”? I can, and I think lots of candidates will be saying it come November.

If Luntz says lots of candidates will be using the phrase “checkbook tax” to describe the alleged fees that will be passed on to consumers, we should take him at his word.
 
In a sense, this represents an evolution in Luntz’s thinking, and even possibly a concession on his part. In his much-discussed original memo intructing opponents of finanial reform on how to talk about it, he urged them to use the phrase “taxpayer-funded bailouts,” ignoring the argument altogether that banks, not taxpayers, are funding the bank liquidation fund. Now Luntz is at least acknowledging this argument — but he’s replaced it with the new claim that taxpayers will still pick up the tab when big institutions pass on costs in the form of a “checkbook tax.”
 
It’ll be interesting to track the evolution of this talking point and to see if candidates start using it on the trail.

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