Tom Friedman is smarter than a lot of people. Just ask him; he’ll tell you. But his column in today’s N&R was just full of Teh Stupid.
We’re in a once-a-century financial crisis, and yet we’ve actually descended into politics worse than usual. There don’t seem to be any adults at the top — nobody acting larger than the moment, nobody being impelled by anything deeper than the last news cycle.
As opposed to the larger-than-the-moment adults whose wisdom and skill in leadership we enjoyed during the last, oh, say, 40 years.
Instead, Congress is slapping together punitive tax laws overnight like some Banana Republic,
Which it wouldn’t have had to do if Tim Geithner hadn’t been so financially negligent and politically tone-deaf — if he had simply performed his due diligence — when facilitating the AIG bailout last fall.
our president is getting in trouble cracking jokes on Jay Leno comparing his bowling skills to a Special Olympian,
Nope. No weapons of mass destriction here.
and the opposition party‘s is behaving as if its only priority is to deflate President Obama’s popularity. (Fixed.)
I saw Eric Cantor, a Republican House leader, on CNBC the other day, and the entire interview consisted of him trying to exploit the A.I.G. situation for partisan gain without one constructive thought. I just kept staring at him and thinking: “Do you not have kids? Do you not have a pension that you’re worried about? Do you live in some gated community where all the banks will be O.K., even if our biggest banks go under? Do you think your party automatically wins if the country loses? What are you thinking?”
See your own preceding graf (edited version), Tom.
If you want to guarantee that America becomes a mediocre nation,
That America becomes a mediocre nation? Dood, for the past nine years, mediocrity would have been an enormous improvement.
then just keep vilifying every public figure struggling to find a way out of this crisis who stumbles once — like Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner or A.I.G.’s $1-a-year fill-in C.E.O., Ed Liddy — and you’ll ensure that no capable person enlists in government.
“Stumbles once”? The “stumbling” has been both intentional and systemic — and don’t think the new bailout proposal isn’t a stumble, either. Once it’s explained to them, taxpayers are going to have a cow. Also, a salary of a dollar a year doesn’t insulate you from criticism, particularly when you misspend $160 billion of taxpayers’ money.
Tom, you’re a bright guy, and this is just not that hard: The people you are counting on to do the right thing (by which I mean “the thing(s) that will work best for the greatest number of people”) in this mess are the same people who got us into this mess in the first place, and their personal interests run strongly in opposition to what is best for the economy and the country as a whole.
You will ensure that every bank that has taken public money will try to get rid of it as fast it can, so as not to come under scrutiny, even though that would weaken their balance sheets and make them less able to lend money.
And this is bad why, exactly? If a bank’s insolvent, the FDIC should take it over, clean it up and sell it. If it’s solvent, then it shouldn’t need a government bailout. And anywhere my money’s involved, I want complete transparency. If that’s a problem, don’t take my money.
And you will ensure that we’ll never get out of this banking crisis, because the solution depends on getting private money funds to team up with the government to buy up toxic assets
But it doesn’t depend on doing so under the terms Geithner has laid out, which works pretty much like this: if the operation makes money, the private interests make most of the money. If it loses money, the taxpayers are on the hook and the private interests may still make money.
and fund managers are growing terrified of any collaboration with government.
Yeah, so terrified the freaking Dow jumped almost 500 points yesterday. These guys know a gravy train when they see one.
[President Obama] should have gone on national TV and had the fireside chat with the country that is long overdue. That’s a talk where he lays out exactly how deep the crisis we are in is, exactly how much sacrifice we’re all going to have to make to get out of it,
All, except, so far, Wall Street.
and then calls on those A.I.G. brokers — and everyone else who, in our rush to heal our banking system, may have gotten bonuses they did not deserve — and tells them that their president is asking them to return their bonuses “for the sake of the country.”
Because asking the Masters of the Universe to do the right thing voluntarily has always worked so well in the past.
Had Mr. Obama given A.I.G.’s American brokers a reputation to live up to, a great national mission to join, I’d bet anything we’d have gotten most of our money back voluntarily.
Tom, you can bet anything you like, as long as it’s not mine. Me, I prefer to let the money boyz’ past behavior be my primary indicator of their likely future behavior. That past behavior says they are well beneath trust.
Right now we have an absence of inspirational leadership. From business we hear about institutions too big to fail — no matter how reckless.
And we’re not hearing Word One about how to prevent businesses from getting Too Big to Fail or what we should do about those businesses that already are both Too Big to Fail and biting the public teat so hard it bleeds.
From bankers we hear about contracts too sacred to break — no matter how inappropriate.
And they can go tell it to the United Auto Workers, stop-lossed military personnel and disabled veterans, among many, many others.
And from our immature elected officials we hear about how it was all “the other guy’s fault.”
And God forbid you actually try to find out who’s really at fault, even though evidence is all around and even though you’re a, you know, journalist and all. Here’s a clue: The blame does not fall equally on all parties; stop writing as though it does.
I’ve never talked to more people in one week who told me, “You know, I listen to the news, and I get really depressed.”
Then, Tom, you really need to get off that farmette of yours and talk to real people more often, because most of us have been depressed by the news for years.
Well, help may finally be on the way: one reason we’ve been sidetracked talking about bonuses is because the big issue — the real issue — the president’s comprehensive plan to remove the toxic assets from our ailing banks, which is the key to our economic recovery, has taken a long time to hammer out.
And it’s not clear why, inasmuch as this plan differs in no material way from an earlier plan by Geithner and an even earlier plan by Henry Paulson, months ago. Also, by “help,” Tom, you mean “another taxpayer screwing.”
So all kinds of lesser issues and clowns have ballooned in importance and only confused people in the vacuum.
Actually, some people in the vacuum are not confused at all: Your colleague Paul Krugman, for one, who knows, believe it or not, one hell of a lot more about this stuff than you do. Also, stop talking as if you have no role to play in minimizing the confusion.
hopefully the president will pull the country together behind [Geithner's plan], and hopefully the lawmakers who have to approve it will remember that this is not a time for politics as usual — and that our country, alas, is not too big to fail. Hopefully …
Tom, given the time you’ve spent in the Middle East, you, of all people, should know that hope is not a plan. Just because we might avoid politics as usual — although it’s unlikely, I could see an alliance of both very liberal and very libertarian/conservative congresscritters arising in opposition to the plan** — does not mean we will avoid business as usual.
And we desperately need to avoid business as usual.
**UPDATE: This may already be happening.