Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Atlantic's Megan McCardle on the Politics of the Financial Crisis

Excerpted from Megan McCardle's Atlantic column, "The Blame Game":

Naturally, the two presidential candidates are moving quickly to deal with this crisis -- that is, to blame it on everyone except themselves. John McCain and his surrogates are pushing the dubious notion that the primary problem is a lack of transparency and accountability. He might send someone down to Lehman's trading floor to ask the people packing up their desks whether they feel they've gotten away with something.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama is pointing the finger at John McCain, or at least Senator McCain's ideas:

The challenges facing our financial system today are more evidence that too many folks in Washington and on Wall Street weren't minding the store. Eight years of policies that have shredded consumer protections, loosened oversight and regulation, and encouraged outsized bonuses to CEOs while ignoring middle-class Americans have brought us to the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression.

I certainly don't fault Senator McCain for these problems, but I do fault the economic philosophy he subscribes to.

This may play well on television, but it is rather disappointing coming from the man who promised us a new kind of politics. There have been no significant changes to the financial regulations in the last eight years that might credibly have created this crisis (the one major alteration, Sarbanes-Oxley, moved things in the other direction). And it's hard to blame loosened oversight when the entire market systematically overvalued the now-toxic securities. Lehman Brothers was not, after all, trying to put itself into receivership for the sheer joy of molesting taxpayers.

Worth reading the rest of it.

It's a little disconcerting to have both major party candidates running as populists. Of the primary candidates in both parties this year, I think the one who might have been best-qualified to deal with the financial crisis was Mitt Romney. He didn't have the sorts of qualifications the American public seems to prefer this year though: he wasn't raised by a single mother, didn't spend any time in a POW camp, didn't live until age ten in Scranton, PA, didn't seem like he actually liked hunting, etc.


J K said...

Romney might have been ok but he just rubbed me as a slickster whom I couldn't trust. I'm glad that out of those (who had a real chance) McCain won the Republican ticket and Barack won the Dem ticket. There's going to be tons of attacks and distortions on both sides until Election day though.

Back to Romney, I would have liked him more if he didn't capitulate to the Christian right on social issues. I tuned in to him when he announced his candidacy. He dropped right back off my radar when he turned from the moderate governor into the red faced, partisan, outraged reactionary; contrived though it was. Just my take.

DaveinHackensack said...

I think he would have done better had he ran as himself and not tried to pretend to be something he was not. But even if he had run as himself, despite his superior intelligence and executive experience in the business, not-for-profit, and government sectors, the "Flanders Factor" probably would have turned most Americans off.

Romney seems too perfect -- he's still married to his high school sweetheart, his kids all like him, he's made lots of money, he's well-adjusted and happy, etc. Many Americans don't trust people like that, because they assume they are fake. I've actually met people like Romney (albeit, not as rich or famous), so I know people like him exist. There happen to be a significant number of Mormons who fit that description.

Albert said...

The problem with your comment Dave, is that there IS NO real Mitt Romney when it comes to politics. I'm from Mass, though I don't live there now, but I still follow what goes on there by reading the local newspaper websites all the time, and my family is still there. With regard to politics, Romney was whoever people wanted him to be. If they wanted him to be liberal in order to get elected, he would say or do anything to convince the people that he was. Same thing happened in the primaries, and I think people saw through it. I think I knew Romney better than the average voter because I kept up with the news there and still visit MA every couple of months. Granted, he might be able to run a business well, but I frankly think he would have been the WORST choice of Republican candidates.

doofus said...

@Albert- funny thing is, I get the same impression from McCain, only he's not as capable at hiding his discomfort with changing positions. He squirms like a fish on a hook, and them mouths whatever his handlers have told him to say. It's painful to watch, and it's disgraceful given that he used to have a well-earned reputation as an honest man.

I don't know much about Romney, but my impression was that he was flexible enough to adapt to the circumstances. Of course these days, that's considered flip-flopping. Somehow candidates are expected to emerge from the womb with their ideology and political positions intact. Romney's biggest albatross though, was his Mormonism.