Krugman writes today about the homeowner mortgage crisis. You remember the homeowners, don’t you? They are those people who got into the market too late and are now underwater on their mortgages and paying much higher interest rates than they could get right now.
So, anyway, there’s an idea floating around that maybe if the guy who heads the Federal Housing Finance Agency would cooperate with the Obama White House, some of those mortgages could be restructured to take advantage of those low interest rates, thus sparing some of those homeowners some financial pain. But the director of that agency, Edward DeMarco, a Bush holdover, refuses to do what’s necessary to get the ball rolling.
Now, this is strange. Presumably, this is an executive branch office so Obama should be able to bear down on this guy and make him do what he’s told. That worked with Sheila Bair, the former head of the FDIC. She wanted to restructure the biggest banks and make the shareholders take a haircut. But Geithner would have none of it. Haircuts are for taxpayers who have been PREPAYING their social security benefits, not bankers and their shareholder buds. So, Geithner stuffed a sock in Bair’s mouth and forced her to bailout the shareholders against her objections. Easy Peasy. Tim showed her how to strong arm. Besides, who’s going to stick up for a girl, right?
So, you’d *think* that the same tactic could be used to force DeMarco to get off his duff but so far, none has been forthcoming from the Obama administration. I noticed that Krugman is getting that pizza and orange juice taste in the back of his mouth when writing about this topic. It must be hard to understand the inertia and then have to defend the stationary object behind it. Let’s see if I can break it down.
Politically, DeMarco serves as a target for scorn, derision and hatred. He’s a Republican holdover. You have to ask yourself *why* Obama didn’t replace him back in 2009 when he became acting director after the former Bush appointee left. If could be that Republicans would bend over backwards to block the new Obama nominee. But that doesn’t make any sense because at the time DeMarco became the acting director, the Democrats had control of the Senate and with the right kind of political strong arming, Obama should have been able to get his nominee through. Same for the Treasury appointees that were meeting with opposition. There’s really no excuse for this. When you have a filibuster proof majority, not using it to your party’s advantage is politically incompetent.
Second option- just fire the guy. How hard is this? Sure the Republicans would scream bloody murder. So? Bush did this all the time. He just ignored the ranting and raving from the other side and he usually got his way. Hey, remember when Dick Cheney shot that guy in the face and we thought it was curtains for Dick? And then his victim took the blame and said he shouldn’t have gotten in the way of the shotgun pellets? Was that genius or what? Obama could have used his reputed political giftiness to get whatever he wanted in 2009. I guess he was keeping his powder dry for something special. And then 2010 came and that was the end of that. Nevertheless, DeMarco is in his territory, so, presumably, Obama could keep firing acting directors until he got to the person who would do his bidding, if it were important to him.
Ahhh, now we’re getting to the nitty gritty. How important is it to fire the guy so that his bidding is executed? I’m guessing it’s about as important as making the shareholders take a haircut in the bank bailout. In other words, it isn’t. The people who hold those mortgages are much more important to him than the people who actually pay them. Obama still needs those campaign donations. One wonders why he can’t just point to all of the good things he’s done. Why does he need to raise more money than Romney to show what a terrific and irreplaceable president he is? The answer to this question is behind why I am so disinterested in this election and probably why Krugman throws up a little every time he has to climb the water tower with a bucket of paint to defend this guy.
So, to recap, DeMarco is convenient to the Democrats because they can point to him and blame the Republicans for being so mean and heartless while at the same time, they can party with their donors who haven’t paid a price for their moral hazard.
Nauseating, isn’t it?
Rehab the Banks or I’m Going Green
Remember Amy Winehouse? She was bright and talented and a total basket case. For years, her family and friends tried to get her to clean up her act. I remember an interview with one of the Dap Kings who backed her as well as singer Sharon Jones. He hinted that it was much, much less fun to tour with Winehouse. Well, I guess so. You’re trying to be professional and you never know what you’re going to get with an out of control alcoholic. It makes you not want to play for her anymore. She’s unreliable.
Her parents pleaded with the public to stop going to her concerts until she got sober. She looked like a train wreck waiting to happen. When she died, was anyone really surprised? I know I wasn’t. She joined the 27 Club, predictably. All very avoidable. What a crying shame.
Same thing with the banks. They’re out of control, unreliable and unstable. At any moment now, they could just die on us. But where Amy just ruined herself and not the rest of the world because she resisted rehab, having the banks act like addicts for extended periods of time has much more serious consequences to the rest of us.
Both candidates are enablers. Obama has had many opportunities in the last 4 years to force the banks to clean up their act but he’s passed on nearly all of them. He seems to not like regulation much, approaching each bank bailout as a new problem that needs a customized solution. He slaps them on the wrist and tells them not to do it again. Romney is a Republican. Enough said. Never trust them. No, no, you former PUMAs, they are not nice people. I even wonder if they’re a party and not simply a mob of crazed whip kissers lead by con men. Actually, that’s *exactly* what the Republican party is today. If you buy into that, you’re really buying into a culture of selfishness and greed disguised by a thin but garish veneer of piety. And that’s about it. They have no other goal than to dismantle government and take everything that isn’t nailed down. Deep down inside, you know this but you can’t get over your anger and hatred of the DNC for what they did in 2008. I’m not over it either but I’m not so blinded by it that I can’t see what the Republicans are up to. The enemy of my enemy is NOT my friend in this case.
What I want is rehab. Yep, if Obama can’t come up with a plan to rehab the financial services industry for our and their good, even at the risk of pissing some of them off, he needs to step aside. If he can’t do the rehab thing, then he’s no use to us. Everyday he continues to enable them and puts off getting them clean and sober, he puts us at risk for a catastrophic failure. And this will happen because as long as they never suffer the consequences of their reckless behavior, they will get even more reckless. Sooner or later, probably sooner, we will have another financial catastrophe on our hands.
If I were a Democrat, I’d be particularly concerned with the period after the convention and before the election. Because once the candidate is selected, unexpected failures will fall on the head of the person in office. Republican are masters of engineering when it comes to making voters scared to death. If you don’t have a strong, steady, competent candidate to calm the waters, you’re screwed.
Don’t think the Republicans don’t want to win. They want it very badly. The last four years were entirely predictable. The idea was to force an economic crisis on the American people and then make it as difficult as possible for the Democratic president to do anything about it. The Republicans got an unexpected assist from the Democrats who nominated the weakest possible candidate they could find. That leaves Obama holding the bag after four years of unrelenting pressure on the American people. If you didn’t expect this, you weren’t paying attention. And if you thought Obama was somehow going to overcome all of it when what was really needed was a president with some insight into the mechanisms of government and how to optimize efforts in a very bad situation, like firing Edward DeMarco and putting your guy in his place, then you were probably better off than most average American working people. Those average Joes are now your responsibility. You dragged them into this.
It’s all avoidable. Rehab the party, rehab the banks. Save the world.