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“Bank Rage” Stresses The Obama Agenda

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March 19, 2009

Public anger over the AIG bonus controversy has risen to the point where no politician wants to be complicit in any government action to further reward those characters, widely regarded to have helped cause the economic crisis.  Worse yet, bailout fatigue is finally taking its toll on the consensual psyche.  On March 18, Chairman Ben Bernanke announced the decision of the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee (FOMC) to print up another trillion dollars to buy back long-term Treasury bonds and to purchase some of those toxic, mortgage-backed securities.  The most immediate beneficiaries of this news were the usual suspects:  the banks.  Citigroup saw its stock value jump over 22% on Wednesday.  Bank of America made a similar gain and Wells Fargo’s stock rose over 17%.  As John Dickerson reported for Slate, President Obama is walking a tightrope by resonating with the public outrage over the behavior of Wall Street’s investment banks, since too much taxpayer anger could cause him trouble down the road:

Administration aides know this outrage can go too far.  If the president stokes too much outrage, he’ll have a tougher time asking for more tax money for future bailouts of banks and other industries.  But, as it was explained to me by an administration adviser, it is impossible for the president not to show that he’s outraged.  If he didn’t, he’d lose credibility, which would eventually hurt his ability to sell future bailouts and his budget.

Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary “Turbo” Tim Geithner continued to take heat from members of Congress, as he is increasingly perceived as the individual who failed to prevent the villains at AIG from being rewarded $165 million for their role in causing the financial meltdown.  As Rick Klein reported for ABC News, two Republican Congressmen (Connie Mack of Florida and Darrell Issa of California) have called for Geithner’s resignation.  Klein’s article went on to point out:

Several congressional aides said members of Congress remain unlikely to press for Geithner’s ouster in large numbers.  At the very least, according to one Democratic leadership aide, members are likely to wait for Geithner to present his comprehensive bank bailout plan before passing judgment.

Once Turbo Tim does finally present “his comprehensive bank bailout plan” (a/k/a the Financial Stability Plan), he will validate his new-found reputation as a lackey for the Wall Street establishment.  If you think he’s unpopular now  …  wait until that happens.  Harold Meyerson’s March 18 op-ed piece in The Washington Post is emblematic of the criticism the new administration faces as it attempts to assimilate Geithner-ism into its economic recovery strategy:

But Geithner’s indulgence of bankers’ indulgences is fast becoming the Obama administration’s Achilles’ heel.  The AIG debacle is the latest in a series of bewildering Geithner decisions that threaten to undermine the administration’s efforts to restart the economy.  So long as it’s Be Kind to Bankers Week at Treasury — and we’ve had eight straight such weeks since the president was inaugurated — American banking, and the economy it is supposed to serve, will remain paralyzed.  The Geithner plan to restart the banks provides huge taxpayer subsidies to hedge funds, investment banks and private equity companies to buy the banks’ toxic assets without really having to assume the risk.  That’s right — the same Wall Street wizards who got us into this mess, using the same securitization techniques that built mountains of debt within a shadow financial system that remains unregulated, are the saviors whom Geithner has anointed to extricate us — with our capital, not theirs — from the mess that they created.

A more plausible solution would be for the government to assume control of those banks that are insolvent, as it routinely does when banks go under.  It could then install new management, wipe out the shareholders, take the devalued assets off the banks’ books, restart lending and restore the banks to private control at a modest profit for the taxpayers.  There may be reasons that Geithner’s plan makes more sense than this one, but if they exist, Geithner has failed to explain them.

Nothing could more seriously undermine President Obama’s “big bang” strategy (of simultaneously tackling the problems of energy, health care, climate change and education) than Geithner’s inept approach to solving the nation’s economic problems.  In fact, it appears as though the growing “bailout fatigue” is already taking its toll.  As Ben Smith and Manu Raju reported for Politico, Indiana Senator Evan Bayh’s 15-member caucus of conservative and centrist Democrats seems convinced that it will be impossible to adequately address the nation’s financial ills while pursuing such an ambitious, multi-front agenda.  Worse yet, as the Politico article pointed out, if the administration is seen as mishandling the economic crisis by catering to the interests of Wall Street, the public could become unwilling to trust the new administration with such a far-reaching scheme, involving so many costly programs:

But many lawmakers made clear Tuesday their view that voters’ willingness to trust Obama on some subjects will be determined by their view of how well he handles the economic crisis.  That judgment, in turn, will be shaped by whether the White House effectively responds to public outrage over large bonuses to executives at bailed-out American International Group.

“Unless we can instill some trust back with the American people that these people who brought on this problem, who risked our 401K funds and hard-working people’s money, aren’t going to be able to profit from their folly, I think we are at risk of losing their trust,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

If Rush Limbaugh still wants to see President Obama fail in advancing the “big bang” agenda  .  .  .

He must have a lot of love for Tim Geithner.

The Clinton Problem

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August 7, 2008

Forget the OxyContin (at least for this weekend).  Rush Limbaugh is going to be on a “natural high”, because his favorite fantasy might just become reality.  The Clintons are in “full hostility” mode and the Hillarologists are planning a parade and more for the convention in Denver.  Limbaugh has attempted to claim credit for the likely showdown in Denver, with his own label: “Operation Chaos”.

Bill Clinton raised some eyebrows with his response to the question, posed during an August 3 videotaped interview on ABC News, as to whether Barack Obama is qualified to be President.  Bill replied:  “You could argue that no one’s ever ready to be President”.  He never gave an unqualified, positive response to that question.

The current situation, from Hillary’s perspective, was reported by Karen Tumulty and Mark Halperin for Time magazine on August 6:

Clinton is also annoyed that Obama has yet to deliver on his end of an informal bargain, reached as part of their truce, that each would raise $500,000 for the other. “Hillary has done her part in that regard,” says an adviser. “Obama has not.”

*        *         *

True, Obama has asked Clinton to give a prime-time speech on the second night of the convention later this month. But as the odds that she will be Obama’s running mate have faded, there are signs that Clinton’s backers could demand one last show of respect before Obama claims the nomination in Denver. Clinton has been giving tacit encouragement to suggestions that her name be placed in nomination at the convention, a symbolic move that would be a reminder of the bruising primary battle. “No decisions have been made,” Clinton said when asked in California — to whoops and applause — about that possibility. Still, it was hard to miss what Clinton would like to see in the pointed way she added, “Delegates can decide to do this on their own. They don’t need permission.”

The photo of the Clintons, accompanying that article, depicts one pissed-off looking duo.  The reports are mixed as to whether Hillary will insist on a convention floor nomination vote.  As Rick Klein and David Cahlian reported for ABC News on August 6:

The refusal to publicly announce her intentions is widely seen as a bargaining chip Clinton is holding on to as party officials negotiate logistics regarding her convention speech and other activities, according to several Democrats who are closely involved in the matter.

In the mean time, Hillary has written an op-ed piece, published in the August 6 Wall Street Journal.  Although the target was the Bush Administration and its complicity in the profiteering from the Iraq war, one could not overlook the absence of any reference to the Obama campaign.  Instead we saw the self-promoting remarks of someone who still considers herself a viable 2008 Presidential candidate:

I’ve proposed a comprehensive overhaul to root out corruption in no-bid contracts and other shady deals.

*   *   *

Of course, we need far more than a Truman Committee. We need the Truman spirit in the White House, where the buck finally stops.

Does Hillary doubt whether Barack Obama will bring that “Truman spirit” to the White House?  It appears as though she is forming her own platform for the Presidential campaign, regardless of whether Obama is “on board” with it.  In case he isn’t … she has her own army ready for a fight in Denver.  Rush Limbaugh is counting on it.