Friday, July 16, 2010

What People Want

The Senate passed major financial reform legislation yesterday, but do the people care?  That was the way the story was portrayed by some of the media, which eschews any kind of triumphalist reporting of the administration's many triumphs, instead expressing the mounting dissatisfaction of the American people about just about everything.  It seems the administration just doesn't understand what the people want, otherwise they would easily be able to fix everything.

It's simple really.  Americans want to punish Wall Street, but we don't understand this financial reform bill.  So that makes people perfectly qualified to criticize the bill both because it doesn't go far enough to punish Wall Street, and also because it creates too much government interference with the private economy.  Just like Americans want the government to improve the economy, but we don't want to increase the deficit.  We want the government to reduce unemployment, but we don't want to spend money on any bills to create jobs.  Just like we want the government to make sure health care is available and affordable for everyone who needs it, but we don't want to be required to pay for health insurance until we get sick.  As far as foreign policy, the task is equally simple.  Americans want the world to be made perfectly safe for Americans, but we don't want to make any sacrifices to achieve that goal.  On the environment, the Administration's marching orders are also clear.  Americans want clean air and clean water, and we don't like big oil spills polluting our beaches, but we do not want to pay more for gasoline, and we don't like to be told to conserve energy.  In fact, gas prices should be lower, and Americans should be able to drive as much as we want.  Americans also want to eliminate crime, but we don't want to pay for more prisons.  We want to send our kids to the best schools, but we don't want to pay teachers more.  We want to make the government smaller, but we don't want to cut Social Security or Medicare or the military.  We hate the whole idea of raising taxes, but we also don't want to cut any government services that affect us.  Did I mention that we also don't like deficit spending?

All the President and the Congress have to do is give us what we want, and we'll stop complaining.  Is that so hard?

(photo from Washington Note)


  1. thank you joe. a little perspective is a good thing! reposting on my fb wall.

  2. Are you troubled that (ironically) on the same day FinReg is passed by the Congress that Goldman comes to a settlement and relatively small payment with the SEC who was investigating hundreds of claims again G.S. just 2hrs later? Goldman appears to have been building custom products designed to explode and then selling them as they insured them to explode.

    Are you not troubled that Fannie and Freddie get a pass? Or that while Congress is patting itself on the back for passing FinReg within a few hours of it's passage JP Morgan stock is up 12%, AIG's stock is up 14% (it's debatable if either should even exist) and Goldman is up 8%. Wall Street seems pleased. We The People, not so much. A fine of $550 mil ... not even a slap on the wrist. Equivalent to about six days of trading.

  3. My biggest issue with this bill is that the two sponsors of it are crooks.

  4. I completely agree with your view of Frakendodd. As well ...

    By Simon Johnson

    It’s one thing to block Elizabeth Warren from heading the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

    It’s quite another thing to deny in public, for the record, that any such blocking is going on (e.g., see this report; Michael Barr apparently said something quite similar today).

    There is a strong groundswell of opinion on this issue from the left – see the BoldProgressives petition. But the center also feels strongly that, given everything Treasury has said and done over the past few months, it would be a complete travesty not to put the strongest possible regulator in change of protecting consumers. (See Ted Kaufman on the NYT’s DealBook, giving appropriate credit to the SEC, and apply the same points to broader customer issues going forward.)

    This can now go only one of two ways.
    1.Elizabeth Warren gets the job. Bridges are mended and the White House regains some political capital. Secretary Geithner is weakened slightly but he’ll recover.
    2.Someone else gets the job, despite Treasury’s claims that Elizabeth Warren was not blocked. The deception in this scenario would be nauseating – and completely blatant. “Everyone was considered on their merits” and “the best candidate won” will convince who exactly?
    Despite the growing public reaction, outcome #2 is the most likely and the White House needs to understand this, plain and clear – there will be complete and utter revulsion at its handling of financial regulatory reform both on this specific issue and much more broadly. The administration’s position in this area is already weak, its achievements remain minimal, its speaking points are lame, and the patience of even well-inclined people is wearing thin.

    Failing to appoint Elizabeth Warren would be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It will go down in the history books as a turning point – downwards – for this administration.

  5. Harrison, I don't agree that Chris Dodd and Barney Frank are crooks, but even if they were crooks, what would that have to do with the merits of the bill? Either the bill is a good bill or it's not a good bill. And I don't mean whether you can find fault with the bill. Everybody agrees that the bill has lots of faults. The question is whether it is better than the alternative, which would be no bill, and no regulation of some of the practices that led to the crash of 2008.

    As far as Elizabeth Warren goes, I don't see why she should be the straw the breaks the camel's back. If the administration supports the Secretary of the Treasury, and they do, it strikes me as a valid consideration to take his views into consideration. On the other hand, I understand the argument that you want someone independent and pro-consumer in this position, and so maybe it's not important that she be a team player. Either way, why not wait and see who they appoint and how that appointment works out, before making judgments on how this could be the turning point or the downward spiral? I just don't think that is fair at all.

  6. We American are a selfish lot. We have had a good ride for many years without due diligence given to long-term ramifications. Now the piper needs to be paid through higher taxes, more oversight and the tenacity to take a slow road to economic recovery rather than a doomed fast track. As a country, we need to reign in our own frivolity and and be grown ups who deal with these problems without whining.

  7. "The question is whether it is better than the alternative, which would be no bill, and no regulation of some of the practices that led to the crash of 2008".

    Agreed, the bill is better than no bill. However, we need to do better. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?! TBTF?! 60% of our GNP generated from gambling that benefits no one but the traders -- and we pay for if they lose?! C'mon.

    We have to elect folks who can get the job done _and work together_. It can happen but they will come from neither the far right nor the far left. They will be left of center, center and right off center. That makes up 80% of this nation. They will have less allegiance to a party and more allegiance to the People. I am looking forward to the experiment California is trying with open primaries. I don't know if it will help get rid of gridlock in Sacramento by trimming out the extreme on either side but I am willing to try as we are a desperate state in a desperate state of affairs. As Cali goes so goes the nation. As Cali goes so goes our country.