“And I sincerely believe, with you, that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies.” (sometimes quoted as “I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.”) — Thomas Jeffersonto John Taylor, Monticello, 28 May 1816 (thanks to Joseph Gallant for this quote).
Jefferson was talking about the power of large banks to control the country’s currency. But we can just as easily apply that statement to the influence of the Wall Street banks on the direction of all regulatory policy at the federal and state level, especially when those banks contribute millions of dollars in lobbying expenses and campaign contributions. The Founding Fathers knew that the Constitution and Bill of Rights would instill accountability and limits on federal power, but only if the people vigilantly insisted that their representatives resist attempts by special interests to influence policy towards.
Today we see the corrosive impact of mega-lobbying by all types of special interests, including but certainly not limited to major banks now involved in “Foreclosuregate.” The Founders recognized, in our framework of checks and balances, the right to sue any person in America for civil wrongs, and have those suits heard before a jury of peers, and state constitutions echo that recognition. Imagine how easily the “Foreclosuregate” banks would have ripped off thousands of American families without the backstop of the 7th Amendment and the corresponding provisions in state constitutions. The GOP and Tea Party must resist continued attempts by those banks to preempt that right in the name of “efficiency.”