If You Want to Make Policy, Be a Banker

by Peter Spiro

That’s always been true in some cases, of course, but maybe there’s more potential today. Two recent examples. The first (report from the WaPo here) involves the scaling back by 40 major banks of Iran-related business, which is hitting home in Tehran more than any form of diplomatic action. The move by the banks is apparently at the prompting of the Bush Administration, but one has to wonder if it isn’t largely driven by good business sense. “This is not an exercise of power,” said Treasure Undersecretary Stuart Levey. “People go along with you if it’s conduct-based rather than a political gesture.” (Speaking of kingpins, can a state function these days without a rating from Moody’s?)

In some ways more interesting (because it goes against government policy) is the move on the part of large banks to expand business among undocumented aliens in the US and their $200 billion in purchasing power. Bank of America has just begun offering a credit card to individuals who don’t have a social security number. Anti-immigration types are crying foul, calling for a boycott of BofA. I suspect that’s not likely to go very far, at the same time that the profit motive comes to further normalize the place of undocumented aliens in the US.


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