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“The administration has clearly decided it’s good politics to beat up the financial services industry, alleging that we’re anti-reform and anti-consumer,” said a financial services lobbyist, commenting on background because of the sensitive nature of the issue. “In fact, the industry has long advocated for reform.”
The lobbyist argued that discrediting Wall Street is “self-defeating” because it is “delaying the repair of trust in an industry essential to economic recovery, growth and job creation.”
Mr. Obama in recent months has pushed an aggressive legislative agenda aimed at overhauling the federal financial regulatory system - against the will of Wall Street.
The president last month traveled to the heart of the U.S. financial sector - New York - to deliver a tempered scolding to corporate executives, arguing they have a moral obligation to support greater oversight and restrictions on certain business practices given the nation’s recent economic turmoil.
“It is neither right nor responsible after you’ve recovered with the help of your government to shirk your obligation to the goal of wider recovery,” said Mr. Obama while speaking to financial services executives at historic Federal Hall in Lower Manhattan.
The White House has clashed with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, long the nation’s premier business organization, over its plans for a consumer financial protection agency. The chamber says it could extend the federal government’s reach deep into the everyday practices of businesses large and small.
The chamber, which was an early supporter of Mr. Obama’s health care reform plans, views Mr. Obama as having betrayed his promise to reach out to those who think differently, in an honest attempt to reach compromises.
“The administration ‘invites’ folks to sit at their table, and then eviscerates them if they simply disagree with the conclusion at the end of the dialogue,” Mr. Josten said.
The health insurance industry has been more circumspect in the face of White House attacks.
America’s Health Insurance Programs (AHIP) came out against the health care proposal on the Hill when it released a report this month saying premiums would rise under the most bipartisan bill in the Senate Finance Committee.
Mr. Obama, in his weekly national address on Saturday, lambasted the insurance industry for “breaking open their massive war chest - to marshal their forces for one last fight to save the status quo.”
“I will not abide those who would bend the truth - or break it - to score political points and stop our progress as a country,” Mr. Obama said, raising the prospect of stripping the insurance companies of their exemptions from antitrust laws.
On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee voted to remove antitrust exemptions that protect the industry from federal regulation.
But AHIP spokesman Robert Zirkelbach adopted a neutral tone when asked about the administration’s offensive.
“Our focus is on advancing comprehensive, bipartisan health care reform that covers every American and makes health care coverage more affordable,” Mr. Zirkelbach said. “The American people deserve an open and honest discussion about how these proposals will impact the affordability of health care coverage.”
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