The Geithner speech betrayed the buildup to it offered by President Obama in his press conference the day before. I was such a sucker I found myself cheering at almost every line, agreeing that Republicans acted with total irresponsibility in opposing Obama's plan to stimulate an economy that was wrecked on their watch. But then came the hangover reality of Geithner's talk. Instead of the promized transparency, we were treated to yet another "trust Big Brother" hustle.
How wonderful that Geithner, who as head of the New York Federal Reserve was in on the first wasted $350 billion, now promises a brand new Website to help us taxpayers follow the action. It means nothing, given that he specifically ruled out any of the serious means of holding Wall Street accountable.
The New York Times got it right: "The plan largely repeats the Bush administration's approach of deferring to many of the same companies and executives who had peddled risky loans and investments at the heart of the crisis." Geithner and White House economic czar Lawrence Summers won out over David Axelrod and other Obama advisers more loyal to the wishes of grass-roots voters.
"As intended by Mr. Geithner, the plan stops short of intruding too significantly into bankers' affairs even as they come onto the public dole."
The word dole is usually applied heartlessly to welfare mothers sustained in their dire poverty by meager government handouts, not to the top bankers now ripping off the taxpayers. But as opposed to welfare mothers, who must survive stringent monitoring, the bankers will be largely self-monitoring. No wonder that welfare rolls, because of onerous eligibility rules, are not rising commensurate to the degree of misery out there. There is no such tough love for bankers.
Much has been made of the proposed $500,000 pay cap that applies only to the most senior executives, who rest assured have already salted away massive fortunes made while hustling unsuspecting consumers with teaser loans. But there is nothing from Geithner about replacing those top executives, who presided over the disintegration of financial institutions that the taxpayers must now salvage. Nor is there any "moral hazard" pain planned for the shareholders in those Ponzi-scheme companies of the sort reserved for ordinary folks losing their homes.
Believe it or not, I fully expected this morning to write a cheerleading column hailing Geithner's reversal of course. Surely the man who as head of the New York Fed sat idly by while the Wall Street giants he was supposed to be monitoring imploded would have learned the error of his ways. Otherwise, why would Obama have appointed him?
I don't have the answer. The Obama of Monday's press conference -- a president in the tradition of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, seemingly deeply feeling the average person's pain as he movingly speaks of the laid-off workers of Elkhart, Ind. -- was absent from the next day's speech by his treasury secretary.
If like me you still get those chatty e-mails from the Obama campaign, it is time to remind them that we voted for the caring community organizer from the streets of Chicago and not some hack carrying water for the predators of Wall Street.
© Creators Syndicate
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Albion Monitor February
12, 2009 (http://www.albionmonitor.com)
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