Abraham Lincoln said: “I have the Confederacy before me and the bankers behind me, and I fear the latter more.” Too right. After all, 150 years later the Confederacy is a memory, while the bankers are strangling us. National People’s Action (NPA) (and, here in Missouri, its affiliate GRO) are gearing up to rein in some of their worst practices.

On Thursday, GRO started the campaign with a rally in Jeff City aimed at the fat cats. Here’s how GRO described it:

The group wants lawmakers to do their job and help our economy and Missouri families recover.  The crowd listened to live music, chanted and heard personal stories from ordinary Missourians who have been hard hit by the economic crisis.  Jennifer Whittler, a single mom from Mexico had to move back in with her parents just to get by.  “I couldn’t afford to keep working, stay in school and care for my daughter without relying on my parents for a place to live.  I work hard, have no access to health care and I still can’t make it in this economy,” Whittler said.

Speakers included a college student from Fayette, Korey Davis, who had to ration his food and go hungry some months because his college costs have become unaffordable and Myra Lewis, a college graduate from St. Louis who has been looking for work for a year and three months and relies on temp jobs to stay afloat.  “I’m single and I can barely survive,” Lewis said, “and I can’t imagine how I would get by if I had children to care for.”

The crowd listened intently to the speakers and shouts of “That ain’t right” filled the air.  The rally turned to solutions when Clem Smith told the crowd about struggling to find a job after being laid off as an autoworker in St. Louis.  A public jobs program finally got him back on his feet.  Brenda Procter of Columbia discussed the need to raise revenue in Missouri by closing tax loopholes like the yacht sales tax exemption and tax exemptions for out-of-state corporations.

Those assembled blamed Rex Sinquefield for misusing his personal wealth to buy influence in the Legislature, and for single-handedly funding the “Let Voters Decide” campaign to press forward a harmful statewide ballot initiative to eliminate valuable local revenue in Missouri’s largest cities.  Following the rally, the Show-Me Showdown crowd headed to lobbyist Gaines Brown Consul ting’s office on Madison Street to deliver a letter with demands for Sinquefield to resign from the presidency of Show-Me Institute, the embezzlement-ridden think tank he founded and to stop funding efforts like the mega sales tax proposal being discussed inside the Capitol.

Show-Me Showdown activists stood outside locked doors at Gaines Brown while Lewis and Whittler knocked at the door to deliver their letter.  “The lights were on, but nobody was home,” said Robin Acree, GRO – Grass Roots Organizing executive director.  “We’re tired of Sin Man Sinquefield’s shenanigans and radical experimentation with Missouri’s future.  Real people are suffering and we’re tired of him flying over us in his corporate jet while Missouri’s infrastructure crumbles from lack of funding and the state is balancing the budget on the backs of the poor and middle class.”  “We need revenue in this state.  There’s nothing else to cut,” Acree said. “We won’t rest until Rex and his corporate cronies take their hands off our government, our democracy and start paying their fair share.”

Those swine at Gaines Brown Consulting must have been snorting at how easy it is to keep the great unwashed from sullying them. Just turn the key. They’re thinking that rally was no cannon shot across the bow. More like a pop from a derringer.

Really? Any of you going to visit with Ben Bernanke this coming week? Because GRO activist Brenda Procter is one of a contingent of 15 NPA members who will be doing that. She will specifically ask Bernanke to use his regulatory power to stop the banks from providing low cost loans to payday lenders. Others at the meeting will focus on different issues–and Bernanke will listen to all of them. Why? Because many senators consider his inaction a firing offense and almost got him canned last month. Besides, NPA has been laying some groundwork at the Fed. A recent press release said:

GRO – Grass Roots Organizing of Mexico, Missouri; Sunflower Community Action of Wichita, Kansas; and Communities Creating Opportunities of Kansas City hosted one of a series of meetings around the country with Federal Reserve officials last summer in Kansas City.   They toured neighborhoods devastated by subprime mortgage foreclosures and discussed the financial struggles of families and communities statewide that resulted from the economic crisis.  

Procter and other mid-Missouri residents participated in the meeting.  The organizations received a commitment from the Federal Reserve to work with community groups to bring banks to the table for a discussion about real economic investment in Kansas City neighborhoods and substantive reforms to protect Missouri consumers from harmful financial products and predatory lending practices.  “Economic investments in both urban neighborhoods and rural communities need to happen now,” says Procter. “National People’s Action affiliates, including GRO, will not rest until we see measureable results from the Fed.”

So, yes, the rally goers Thursday did no more than fire off a derringer. It was a teeny part of a much bigger plan, and that plan includes massive rallies at the stockholder meetings in April of Bank of America and Wells Fargo, with the aim of damaging their stock prices if the worst of the worst don’t start enacting policies that actually help people. Thousands of protesters at stockholders meetings make board members’ palms clammy.

I’ll attend one of those rallies. If there’s one in K.C., I’ll be there. If not, I’ve got two nieces in Frisco who’d love to give me a free bed so that I can march outside the Wells Fargo annual stockholders meeting.

Let’s lay siege to the banks.