Populist banker. Now those are two words you rarely see linked together.

But Thomas Hoenig, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, truly is a rarity. Firmly rooted in small-town Iowa and Kansas, he has never aspired to be part of the Wall Street-Washington power elite, and he doesn’t hesitate to challenge their financial orthodoxy and obsequious kowtowing to the preening barons of big banking.

In a recent New York Times op-ed, Hoenig laid into the claims by the political and financial establishment that the massive taxpayer bailout and subsequent regulatory “reforms” of Wall Street have fixed the banking system. Let me give it to you in his own words: “After this round of bailouts, the five largest financial institutions are 20 percent larger than they were before the crisis. They control $8.6 trillion in financial assets–the equivalent of nearly 60 percent of [America’s] gross domestic product. Like it or not, these firms remain too big to fail.”

How big are they? So enormous, says Hoenig, that “their chief executives cannot manage them, nor can their regulators provide adequate oversight.”

And, countering the contrived contention of the Washington-Wall Street axis that only huge banks can compete globally, Hoenig points out that our banking system must be structured to serve our national interest, not the insatiable self-interests of multimillionaire bankers and billionaire speculators. Again, his own words: “More financial firms–with none too big to fail–would mean less concentrated financial power, less concentrated risk and better access and service for American businesses and the public.”

How about that? A big-time banker who wants to shrink the giants of Wall Street, believing that bankers should serve us, rather than vice versa.

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Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He's also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.

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