Just because Obama attacks “fat cat” bankers in one of his egalitarian rants doesn’t mean that Romney should refuse to excoriate those bailed-out, over-bonused executives when their behavior warrants it. Ever since the days of Adam Smith, believers in the virtues of free markets have known that “people of the same trade seldom meet together . . . but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public.” It’s bad enough when these conspiracies aim to fix prices on, say, construction projects. But when the conspirators are bankers who label themselves “dudes” and “big boys,” and promise each other bottles of Bollinger for manipulating prices, and when the price they fix is the interest rate that the Wall Street Journal estimates governs $800 trillion of loans and derivatives worldwide, including almost one million U.S. home loans indexed to Libor carrying an unpaid principal balance of $275 billion, we have an assault on the heart of capitalism, not to mention a potential bonanza for class-action lawyers. The CEO of one multinational bank told the Economist, “This is the banking industry’s tobacco moment,” referring to that industry’s $200 billion claims payout. …

And where is Mitt Romney, with a golden opportunity to show that he is outraged at this latest effort of the banking community to appropriate to itself a still larger share of the national income, to show that he believes in a market manipulated neither by government bureaucrats nor by private bankers? It’s not banker-bashing to criticize bankers when they deserve it. And it’s not bad politics when that criticism lets Main Street know that Wall Street does not own this candidate. The Manhattan Institute’s Nicole Gelinas said it best: “When a bank egregiously breaks the law, it should run the risk of a criminal conviction.” Why not a simple comment from the candidate that bankers’ “monkeying with the Libor this way for their own financial benefit is outrageous”? Alas, that statement came not from Romney but from Barney Frank, who predictably sees congressional hearings and more regulations as the solution.