Main Street Takes on Wall Street… and Wins

Big bank lobbyists have been putting on a full-court press in Washington, DC to roll back components of the financial overhaul passed last year and free Wall Street to go back to the "business as usual" that led to the financial crisis in 2008.

The bankers are gunning for the new Consumer Protection Bureau and attempting to block the confirmation of a director for the bureau. They're lobbying to starve regulatory agencies of the funds needed to enforce the provisions of the new law. And on the Senate floor on June 8, they went after small businesses with an amendment to delay (read, kill) new rules limiting debit swipe fees. But this time, the bankers lost.

The bank-backed amendment needed 60 votes to pass, and it fell six votes short on Wednesday (see the roll call of the vote – no party line vote here, unless you draw the lines of a new "Party of Wall Street"). This vote was a big win for small businesses, stopping big banks and the card company duopoly from walking away with an extra $1 billion a month in exorbitant swipe fees.

Leaders in the Main Street Alliance led the charge of small businesses fighting back against the banks' lobbying onslaught. While the inside-the-beltway small business lobbies (like the NFIB) sat on the sidelines, MSA business owners made calls, signed letters, and organized their business contacts to make their voices heard.

Mike Craighill, owner of the Soup and Such restaurants in Billings, Montana wrote an op-ed in The Hill on June 9 recapping the victory. Mike wrote:

As the owner of two family restaurants that cater to a daytime business clientele, I know a thing or two about serving up a good lunch. And, in the run-up to Wednesday's Senate vote on the amendment to delay new rules limiting debit swipe fees, I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that big banks were going to eat our lunch… again.

But, to my surprise and delight – and thanks in large part to small business owners from Maine to Iowa to Washington State who contacted their Senators and make their voices heard - Wall Street bankers didn't win this time. They didn't eat our lunch.

MSA leader Mary Noel Black, owner of The UPS Store at Citiplace in Baton Rouge, Louisiana had this to say reflecting on the significance of the vote:

The massive transfer of wealth from our local economies, from places like Greeley, Colorado and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to the Manhattan penthouses of bank executives has been slowed. This vote confirms that the new swipe fee limits will move forward, and small businesses will be freed from exorbitant interchange fees that have hindered our ability to grow and create jobs.

The Senate's vote also confirmed that it’s possible to stand up to the big banks and win… and that small businesses banding together and making their voices heard are a force to be reckoned with.

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