Obama Could Do More to Clean Up Wall Street

Last Updated Jan 11, 2010 2:46 PM EST

President Obama is considering slapping a fee on banks to recoup more of the money lent to them by taxpayers. Meanwhile, bonus season blooms on Wall Street.

Coincidence? Only in the movies. Big banks this month will cut large checks to reward employees for all their hard work. Many of their countrymen, presumably including some people presently looking for work, will be appalled at the unfairness of it all. Hue will follow cry.

White House officials, who have shown considerable restraint in dealing with the financial industry, can't very well sit on their Blackberries given the surging public hostility to banks. They must be seen doing something (anything) to channel the rage.

In December, for example, Obama went on TV to inveigh against "fat cat" bankers. To make sure we got the point, he followed that up with a photo-op with decidedly more lovable community bankers.

Administration officials were hammering the message this weekend. Said Cristina Romer, head of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers on CNN:

"You would certainly think that the financial institutions that are now doing a little better would have some sense. This big bonus season -- of course it offends the American people. It offends me."
Well, OK. But if the feds were really offended by those bonuses, it could do something aimed at fundamentally changing the structure and culture of Wall Street, such as push to restore Glass Steagall. The Administration has actively tamped down this proposal. It's also been cool to other ideas floating around Congress that would do more to rein in Big Finance than apply a fee that banks could merrily pass along to consumers.

That's offensive, too.

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    Alain Sherter covers business and economic affairs for CBSNews.com.