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Obama & the Fat Cats: A Love-Hate Story

Aaron Task
Editor in Chief
Fin - Daily Ticker - US

President Obama has set an audacious goal to raise $1 billion for his reelection campaign. To raise anywhere near $1 billion, he'll have to go where the money is: Wall Street.

But after labeling them "fat cats" and criticizing their outsized bonuses, President Obama is going to have to mend a lot of fences. That's why the Democratic National Committee has begun "an aggressive push by Mr. Obama to win back the allegiance of one of his most vital sources of campaign cash," The NY Times reports:

"The president's top financial industry supporters say they are confident that the support Mr. Obama needs will ultimately be there, despite the financial industry's unhappiness over his efforts to tighten regulation of their businesses. But it is clear that those supporters will have to work much harder to win over the financial services industry than they did in 2008, before Wall Street's bust, the subsequent clashes over policy and the sometimes bitter personal differences that lingered afterward."

In other words, Wall Street doesn't like being called mean names so is taking its (money) ball and going home.

The amazing thing is that Obama's populist rhetoric has not been matched by his actions vis-a-vis Wall Street. Rather than using the 2008 election as a mandate for real change, the Obama administration continued and extending the Bush administration's policies of providing bailouts with little or no restrictions, and failed to hold senior executives and bondholders responsible for their actions. (See: Obama Lashes Out at "Fat Cat Bankers," But Talk Is Cheap)

Yet, there are tougher regulations on financial firms now but it's really a small price to pay for the trillions of dollars of direct and indirect bailouts the industry received — and continues to receive. That's why it's so galling to many Americans to hear executives like JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon complain about onerous regulations, as he did last week in a much-publicized spat with Ben Bernanke. (See: Jamie Dimon Fears Regulations Are Hurting the Economy. Do You?)

In a separate but related development, The WSJ reports the President is getting some push-back from more traditional Democratic donors, who — among other things — don't feel Obama has been tough enough on Wall Street.

As the President, First Lady and VP Biden embark on a series of fund-raisers this month, they're going to have to do a lot of fancy footwork in order to quell concerns among the moneyed class without further alienating ordinary Americans, many of whom are also feeling short-changed.

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