Obama today announced his proposal for restructuring the financial sector, and although there are some excellent parts of the proposal, with real teeth on them (new standards on leverage, for example), the overall gist of the package is oversight. His accompanying explanation also focused on oversight:
Mr. Obama told reporters on Tuesday that a "lack of oversight" allowed what he called "wild risk-taking." He said it led to "very dangerous" conditions that imperiled the global economy.
He believes there need to be more guards on watch, in effect. More (and more independent) weathermen and women, more border guards. In this view, the crisis happened--bottom line--because not enough good people were watching out for risk.
I hope you find these apt, and capable of serving two ends--a celebration of good poetry, a reflection on 100 days.
-- Philip Larkin
What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?
Yesterday's hearing at the Joint Economic Committee, convened by Congresswoman Maloney, gave me some hope that Congress might be thinking about taking some leadership in systematically restructuring our financial system. I highly recommend that everyone watch the video.
Sam Brownback, Republican Congressman Burgess, Democratic Congressman Cummings, Democratic Congresswoman Maloney--unlikely bedfellows, to say the least--all appeared to accept the arguments of Joseph Stiglitz, Simon Johnson, and Thomas Hoenig, that the current PPIP and TARP projects are not just foolish but dangerous, and that we need a radical restructuring of the response to the crisis.
The panel starts with discussions of economic failure, but ends with the problems of political failure. As Congressman Burgess said in the opening remarks, "Trillions of taxpayer dollars are at risk, but congressional approval is not needed for the plan to proceed …on its face this is a violation of the democratic process."
Yesterday thousands of people rallied in hundreds of "tea party" protests across the country, expressing anger about the economy, politics, and taxes.
It is easy to make fun of the tea-baggers, to find idiotic quotes, and share pictures of wing-nut signs. It's easy to dismiss the participants as foolish followers of well-paid demagogues. But I'm not going to join the collective progressive dunking of the tea-bagging events. Whenever thousands of people choose to break their usual nonpolitical routine and publicly protest, we should pay attention. We should try to understand, and---for those of who believe that massive structural change of our financial system is in order---we should probably reach out.
These are my preliminary thoughts about the tea parties: