Obama’s Shrewd Bank Tax

The tea-party movement has always contained potentially contradictory strains of populism and libertarianism. Back when we were bailing out the big banks, these strands coincided: conservatives could say, look, Obama is giving your money away to Wall Street fat cats and he’s interfering in the free market.
But now that Obama is proposing to recoup the bailouts with a tax on the big banks, conservatives’ true colors are going to show again. Today’s meme on Fox News is that the banks have already repaid their bailouts. This, of course, can’t be squared with the old idea that the bailout program exemplifies big government and out-of-control spending, because it isn’t out of control if you’re already getting paid back.
The inconsistency is one thing, but the bigger picture is that conservatives are finally going to have to choose between populism and libertarianism, and Democrats can only hope that they choose the latter, as they appear poised to do. I’m less certain about the policy merits, but for that reason I think Obama’s bank tax is a shrewd political move.

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