Porter McConnell (MPP '05) of “Take on Wall Street” speaks about reforming the financial system for the average American.
This is Ford School Currents, now with Porter McConnell MPP 2005,
who is the Campaign Manager at Take on Wall Street. So Porter, first
off, how did Take on Wall Street get started?
Take on Wall Street was launched before my time in 2016
in anticipation of a Hillary Clinton presidency. And the idea was that
a lot of unions and faith groups and community organizers and national advocacy
groups felt that the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reforms, while they were really
important, they didn't go far enough. So we're now a coalition of about
60 groups hosted by Americans for Financial Reform, the group that originally
worked with Elizabeth Warren and others to pass the Dodd Frank Act. After
January 20th, 2017, you were dealing with a very different set of circumstances.
And thinking about reforming financial institutions, you have national local
state regulations, you have online, you have all sorts of different kinds
of players, so how do you focus that down, how do you figure
out what are the issues where you can really make a difference?
One of the biggest challenges is that while Wall Street plays a role
in all of our lives, it sometimes can be an invisible role.
And so one of the biggest things we need to do is kind
of pull the curtain back. There's a lot of work to explain to
folks like, "This is what a stock buy back is, and this is
why... If you try to do this, it would just be seen as
a hustle or it would be illegal, but there's a set of folks
who are really good at reading the system and they are able to
do this work." And so, a lot of what we do is translating
and explaining. The other thing we don't ever need to explain
to working families is that the system is unfair or that the system
is rigged, or that... Let's say the difference between the debt that Stacey
Abrams took out, for example, to when she was supporting her family versus
the debt that Brian Kemp took out because of a failed business,
of failed investment. People instinctively know that we treat those debts
differently, and it's sort of a youthful indiscretion for him and a sign
of maybe a need for more financial literacy or whatever for her.
So I think people understand the politics, the small p politics,
but they don't necessarily know the jargon. And so, the biggest challenge
for us is, here's the jargon, here's what it means. Here's what's happened
over time. Making money for money has happened,
that practice has grown over the last 40 years.
It hasn't always been true that the economy has been financialized. It used
to be that you'd make money from products and services more.
So a lot of that is explaining, but then on another level,
we're listening to families who are talking about the role of payday lenders
in their lives, or the role of student debt in their lives,
so it's a bit of a two way conversation. And the big challenge
for us is to be the translators of the jargon, but then to
really listen as activists are telling us their stories. Porter McConnell,
thanks for your insight. Nice talking to you.