The Common Good

Yes, NPR, Ordinary People Care About Financial Reform!

[Editors' note: This post is taken from a letter Sojourners associate editor Elizabeth Palmberg sent to the folks who create National Public Radio's Planet Money podcast.]

Dear Planet Money,

On a recent podcast, you asserted that right now "there is no such thing as grassroots when it comes to writing rules for financial regulations," and in particular that people outside the financial industry are not sending letters to the CFTC. What am I, chopped liver?

I am an editor at a Christian magazine. My faith tells me that everyone is my neighbor -- so, when I see that poor people worldwide experienced hunger in 2008, and are already starting to do so again, in part because of Wall Street speculation, I have a responsibility to act. I wrote the CFTC last November (adapting a template letter from the grassroots coalition Stop Gambling on Hunger) in order to express my deep concern that world hunger has been fostered by the food futures speculation of the Wall Street bubble jockeys -- and will be again unless the CFTC writes strong rules to implement financial reform.

In particular, I expressed concern that Wall Street would try to wedge itself into a "commercial users" loophole that was obviously intended only for companies that process food or other physical commodities. I also expressed concern about who would own derivative clearinghouses (which, as your podcast mentioned, Wall Street types are lining up to try to run).

I have no animus against the individuals who work on Wall Street -- in fact, the MP3 player on which I listen to your podcast was a gift from a friend who works at an arbitrage firm, and who is perhaps literally the nicest person I know. But without reasonable ground rules, even people of goodwill (not to mention people without it) can build systems that run amok, increase hunger and suffering, and run the world economy off a cliff.

I appreciate Planet Money's overall reporting, and I encourage you to look a little further to read some of the grassroots letters that have been sent to the CFTC -- or, better yet, to interview some of the grassroots activists at Stop Gambling on Hunger or Americans for Financial Reform.

Blessings,
Elizabeth Palmberg

Elizabeth Palmberg is an associate editor of Sojourners.

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