Here’s the question I’ve been wondering over the past few days… when did we become so stupid as to buy the notion that somehow Barack Obama or John McCain has any relevance to the current economic situation?
Honest to God, have we all gone absolutely insane? We’re faced with an incredibly complex financial problem that perhaps only a handful of egghead economists and historians can accurately and objectively explain, and suddenly it becomes important what Obama or McCain prescribes as a solution? The only conclusion I can draw from this development is that we are a nation of sheep, standing around bleating and waiting for someone to point us in the direction of the shearing shed.
Much of the media has managed to dumb this crisis down to one key element… which candidate is benefiting from the chaos. Yes, that is what’s truly important. Credit is tightening, confidence globally is wavering, banks are teetering… hmmm, Obama is up by 3 points. There’s your news.
What a load of crap. Every day for the past week we’ve been subjected to the sound of both candidates regurgitating the words that have been crammed down their throats by teams of certified economic advisors. I remember my college days… staying up late into the night stuffing chapters of macro and micro economics into my noggin’, hoping the information wouldn’t overflow and spill out before I made my way to the exam room. I’ll bet I could have pushed my solid C average in finance to at least a B if only I’d had a team of economic advisors to call my very own.
Just the other day I looked over at the PWB wall o’ monitors to see Obama outlining his four principles for the crazy billion dollar bingo bailout plan on Capitol Hill:
Principle 1 – A ban on generous payouts. Daring and not at all pandering to the public. Certainly a principle of capitalism is that the engine runs better when government dictates private sector pay and determines how much profit is sufficient. Let’s all cheer and sing the Internationale.
Principle 2 – Oversight of Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. Actually, this principle I can get behind. Under no condition would I give a guy named Hank a blank check for $700 billion clams. Nor would I trust anyone named Scooter, Red or Hambone to have unchecked control over that sort of cash.
Principle 3 – Treat taxpayers like investors. Oh. I don’t know about you, but my experience has been that investors can get screwed. A lot. So I believe he’s advocating the screwing of taxpayers. No change there.
Principle 4 – Assistance for people who are in danger of foreclosure. Hmm… admittedly a tough one. How about this for an idea; we hire thousands of qualified unemployed folks to work on mortgage due diligence teams. The teams analyze each shaky mortgage… those homebuyers who were genuinely bamboozled into buying a home they couldn’t afford get assistance, while those who knew what they were doing but didn’t care and/or deliberately lied on their applications get squat.
To be fair, Senator McCain hasn’t been shy in displaying his new found economic knowledge either. He and Obama have been battling to see who can get more airtime to explain the seriousness of the situation and to issue demands that the do-nothing Congress do something, that we protect Main Street from Wall Street and if we don’t do something the world will explode and the markets will die. Forever.
And that’s the problem. We are cursed with having to deal with this significant issue during an election year.
As a result, the normal amount of partisan poo-flinging that we could have expected from this situation has been amplified into a crapfest of monumental proportions. Finger pointing (rude in any social setting), distorting facts and historical events that got us here, petty political bickering and a general lack of expertise and understanding have marked the efforts on Capitol Hill to date.
I’d like to see every member of a Congressional or Senate finance or banking committee be forced to take a test. We could ask them simple questions like “What does FDIC stand for” and “A loan to purchase a home is called a _____?” Then we could progress to more difficult questions such as “Why did the Democrats oppose regulating Fannie and Freddie back in 2005?” or “Did past Congressional pressure on the banking system to make housing more accessible and mortgages easier to obtain have anything to do with the current crisis?”
Anyone who can’t pass the test has to immediately vacate their offices and return to private life. We could then have a lottery to fill the newly open positions and I guarantee no one will notice the difference.
Overshadowing everything else, the media and pontificators have spun this mess into a moronic bedtime story about who is better to solve the problem, Obama or McCain, and who will benefit from the crisis. I vote neither.
Now I realize that it’s an election year and we’re curious about how both candidates would handle the crisis… that’s a fair sidebar, but it ain’t the main story. We should be spending ink and airtime objectively analyzing what led to this crisis, reviewing what the actual experts believe and examining what our elected officials with direct involvement in the matter are doing about it.
Which candidate do I believe is better able to manage the economy? Are you kidding? We’re not voting for a chief financial officer, if we were, neither would get past the initial interview. Let’s all agree that neither has any particular financial expertise. If we can get to that happy place, then perhaps we can spend more time actually dealing with the problem, rather than the politics of the problem.
Let us know what you think about the economic crisis. Do you believe the talking point that it’s all the result of deregulation and the evil Bush Empire, or do you think there’s more to it? Send you thoughts and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org PWB interns are standing by. Well, actually they’re down at the 8 Ball shooting pool right now, but as soon as the mailbag arrives they’ll be standing by.
Til’ next week, stay safe.
Mike Baker served for more than 15 years as a covert field operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, specializing in counterterrorism, counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations around the globe. Since leaving government service, he has been a principal in building and running several companies in the private intelligence, security and risk management sector, including most recently Prescience LLC, a global intelligence and strategy firm. He appears frequently in the media as an expert on such issues. Baker is also a partner in Classified Trash, a film and television production company. Baker serves as a script consultant, writer and technical adviser within the entertainment industry, lending his expertise to such programs as the BBC's popular spy series "Spooks," as well as major motion pictures.