Friday, December 18, 2009
Once again Obama says one thing and does the opposite
"I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat-cat bankers on Wall Street," President Obama told "60 Minutes" onSunday, the eve of White House meeting with top Wall Street bankers. This line, and the credulous media coverage that followed, fed the image of Obama as the people's crusader against the wealthy special interests. But if you skip the rhetoric and focus instead on verifiable facts -- campaign contributions, administration appointees, White House visitor logs, Obama's bailouts and even his proposed regulations -- you see instead that Obama may be closer to Wall Street than any modern president.
Obama raised $14.8 million from Wall Street in the 2008 election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics -- more than any politician ever, and more than George W. Bush raised in both of his elections combined. From the fattest cat, Goldman Sachs, Obama raised $997,095, more than four times McCain's Goldman haul and more than any candidate has raised from any single company since the McCain-Feingold campaign finance regulations.
Then there's the revolving door between Wall Street and the West Wing, spinning as rapidly as ever. Citigroup's and Goldman's tentacles into the White House have been well-documented by Obama critics on the Right (most thoroughly by Michelle Malkin in her best-seller "Culture of Corruption") and the Left (most famously by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone).
And on the substance, Obama's policies and proposals have been a boon to Wall Street interests. Begin with the bailout. Back in September 2008, Barack Obama was the only man outside of the Bush administration who could have blocked that $700 billion corporate welfare boondoggle. Had Obama opposed this transfer of wealth to fat-cat bankers, it would have died in the Democrat-controlled Congress. Since becoming president, Obama has ramped up the bailout machine, notably by creating a new double bailout program called the Public-Private Investment Partnership that relies on subsidies from both the FDIC and the Federal Reserve.
Then Obama rewarded the captains of Team Bailout 2008. Timothy Geithner, who ran the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, steered government through the creative bailouts of Bear Stearns and AIG. Obama put Geithner in charge of Treasury (and Geithner picked a Goldman Sachs lobbyist as his chief of staff). Obama also renominated Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, the other savior of the Wall Street giants last fall. Obama praised him for his "outside-the-box" thinking. For a president who talks like a reluctant bank saver, Obama certainly has bought into the bailout apparatus with enthusiasm.
But with his new regulations, Obama claims he's calling these banks to heel after using taxpayer money to save them. This is just more example of Obama's shadowboxing. In truth, he's nearly on the same page as the bankers. The AP reported Monday that Wall Street CEOs "believe the president has mischaracterized them as being against the new rules, when in fact they support the vast majority of the administration's proposals."
"I have no intention of letting their lobbyists thwart reform," Obama warned. But neither, apparently, do the lobbyists. The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, the lobby for Wall Street, applauded the House's passage of financial regulation last week, stating, "There is no doubt that the industry shares the same goal of reforming our financial system as President Obama and the Congress."
Obama's tough talk towards lobbyists looks even more absurd when you see who these lobbyists are. Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Credit Suisse, ING and the Investment Company Institute are all clients of the Podesta Group, co-founded by Obama's transition director, John Podesta, and the first K Street firm to hire away an Obama administration official. Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, the Futures Industry Association, the Managed Funds Association and SIFMA are all clients of Steven Elmendorf, a top Democratic lobbyist who has visited the White House at least five times. American Bankers Association lobbyist Edward Yingling has visited at least six times.
These banks and lobbies have some disagreements with the president, but they are not the intransigent opponents he portrays them to be. But admitting to cordial relations with Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan would pierce Obama's crusader image. As his climate bill turns into a corporate porkfest and his health care reform turns into an insurer's and drug maker's dream, Obama needs to keep at least one imaginary corporate enemy.
Obama: Just another crooked and destructive politician
The White House thinks it can jawbone banks into lending to people they don't want to lend to. We've been down this road before, and it led all the way to the 2007 financial meltdown. The president on Monday gave a tongue-lashing to the "fat-cat bankers on Wall Street," as he called them the day before. He wants them to make more loans to small businesses and consumers to give the economy a boost.
But should banks be lending just because a politician tells them to? We tried this before. Indeed, it's the very source of the financial and economic calamity of the past two years. President Obama may think dressing down the top dogs at Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and others is good politics. But it's demoralizing and will only lead to more bank write-offs, more bank failures and less lending.
Besides, as economist Thomas Sowell noted in a recent series in IBD, our current economic ills are largely due to just the kind of government meddling we now see in the financial markets. In this, President Obama is treading the very same ground as President Clinton and President Bush in pushing banks to make risky loans they shouldn't make. And it will have the same dire results.
For those who don't remember, the federal government became more involved than ever in determining how banks make their loans — and to what customers — thanks to the creation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac out of the wreckage of the Great Depression. They were followed by the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act of 1975, the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989 and the Federal Housing Enterprises Financial Safety and Soundness Act of 1992.
Go back to the 1970s and early 1990s you'll see that, just as today, bankers were criticized heavily for their alleged racism and lack of concern for the poor. President after president lambasted them for not lending more to support presidential social policies. By 2000, President Clinton's HUD required half of Fannie Mae's loan originations to go to poor and moderate-income borrowers — whether they could pay on the loans or not. It marked the triumph of leftist politics over financial common sense.
This is how the subprime meltdown, the source of our current financial troubles, came about. Not by "greedy" banks or by "deregulation." Banks had a choice: make bad loans or face more scrutiny when it came time to raise capital or to merge with other banks.
As such, President Obama must know his attack on banks is dishonest. Plans for a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency, the $700 billion TARP bailout and the creation of a "pay czar" who determines the pay of the top officers at companies that took bailout funds, have created a timid, risk-averse financial sector.
Banks have nearly $1 trillion in reserves. So why don't they lend them? Simply put, they can't sneeze without government permission. Worse, they don't know what taxes or regulations they'll face in coming years. If the House's vote on Friday to impose a $150 billion "fee" on Wall Street is any indicator, they can expect far lower profits and much more destructive government control — not less.
Democrats' Blues Grow Deeper in New Poll: Many of their voters may stay at home next November
Less than a year after Inauguration Day, support for the Democratic Party continues to slump, amid a difficult economy and a wave of public discontent, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. The findings underscored how dramatically the political landscape has changed during the Obama administration's first year. In January, despite the recession and financial crisis, voters expressed optimism about the future, the new president enjoyed soaring approval ratings, and congressional leaders promised to swiftly pass his ambitious agenda.
In December's survey, for the first time, less than half of Americans approved of the job President Barack Obama was doing, marking a steeper first-year fall for this president than his recent predecessors. Also for the first time this year, the electorate was split when asked which party it wanted to see in charge after the 2010 elections. For months, a clear plurality favored Democratic control.
The survey suggests that public discontent with Mr. Obama and his party is being driven by an unusually grim view of the country's status and future prospects. A majority of Americans believe the U.S. is in decline. And a plurality now say the U.S. will be surpassed by China in 20 years as the top power.
Democrats' problems seem in part linked to their ambitious health-care plan, billed as the signature achievement of Mr. Obama's first year. Now, for the first time, more people said they would prefer Congress did nothing on health care than who wanted to see the overhaul enacted. "For Democrats, the red flags are flying at full mast," said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducted the survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. "What we don't know for certain is: Have we reached a bottoming-out point?"
The biggest worry for Democrats is that the findings could set the stage for gains by Republican candidates in next year's elections. Support from independents for the president and his party continues to dwindle. In addition, voters intending to back Republicans expressed far more interest in the 2010 races than those planning to vote for Democrats, illustrating how disappointment on the left over attempts by party leaders to compromise on health care and other issues is damping enthusiasm among core party voters.
But public displeasure with Democrats wasn't translating directly into warmth for Republicans. Twenty-eight percent of voters expressed positive feelings about the GOP -- a number that has remained constant through the Democrats' decline over the summer and fall. Only 5% said their feelings toward the Republicans were "very positive."
And in one arena, Afghanistan, Mr. Obama appeared to have some success in winning support for his planned troop surge. Liberals remain largely opposed to the strategy, but in fewer numbers compared with before Mr. Obama made his case in a speech at West Point. Overall, by 44% to 41%, a plurality believe his strategy is the right approach.
Still, the survey paints a decidedly gloomy picture for Democrats, who appear to be bearing the brunt of public unease as unemployment has risen from 7.6% to 10% since Mr. Obama took office. Just 35% of voters said they felt positively about the Democratic Party, a 14-point slide since February. Ten percent felt "very positive."
President Obama’s athletic prowess is becoming a real advantage in office as he recently has taken the duck-and -run approach to the media. Instead of defending himself in front of the open microphone, he is dispatching his cronies to defend his policy positions. Our commander-in-chief isn’t living up to his campaign promise of presidential access and transparency.
Obama hasn’t held a formal press conference since July 22. At that event he infamously gaffed that Cambridge Police had acted stupidly when confronting Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. at his home. Since that time, Obama has avoided off-the-cuff question and answer sessions, preferring to rely on his teleprompter for scripted remarks. On his recent trip to Asia, Obama limited questions at his joint press conferences to one each from a U.S. reporter and a foreign journalist. At his “joint press statement” with Chinese President Hu Jintao, no questions were allowed.
This is all shocking given the hyperbole that was spewed during the campaign from the media, who referred to Obama as the ‘Great Communicator.’ While the press were admiring Obama’s rhetorical skills, behind the scenes, handlers were scripting all events and carefully controlling the message.
Rather than running one of the most open and transparent administrations ever, team Obama is running one of the most disingenuous and scripted. As White House Communications Director Anita Dunn boasted, “We controlled the media coverage of the campaign.”
Obama is running a charade. If he were genuine about what he is trying to accomplish, he would not be so afraid to face tough questions. Obama fears that if he makes himself available to the press, he will make another blooper and be caught in his lies.
This past week, Obama again practised deception. After pointedly declaring in his speech to the joint session of Congress that “my plan will not include taxpayer funding of abortion,” Obama lobbied Congress in support of abortion funding in the health reform bill. His administration has even lobbied against the pro-life amendments to these bills. Obama’s spokesman Robert Gibbs argued that these health bills are not the president’s, therefore “his plan does not include taxpayer funding of abortion.” This is a laughable explanation at best, and one that Obama clearly does not want to say himself. Therefore he is avoiding a press conference like the plague.
The American people are catching on and it is one reason why his approval rating is down to 47 percent in the most recent Gallup poll.
Why independents are abandoning Obama: "Many voters who were attracted to promises of ‘hope and change’ are now asking, ‘What the heck have I done?’ President Obama rode into office on the coattails of some horrible economic realities …. The nation needed both to energize new policies and to help us continue down the path to recovery, specifically in the areas of job creation and economic growth. … In 2008, 43% of evangelical Christians voted for him and he rewarded them by turning around and signing an executive order to authorize the spending millions of dollars for international abortions via the Mexico City policy. And he did it at the peak of the economic meltdown. Those who wanted America to withdraw from Iraq and to see Gitmo closed are still waiting for those promises to come true.”
Credit Suisse bank to pay $536 million for assisting Iran: "Credit Suisse AG agreed to pay $536 million to settle claims the bank helped process payments that let Iran and other nations avoid government sanctions and gain access to U.S. financial markets. The bank entered into a deferred prosecution agreement as part of the settlement with the U.S. Justice Department, a spokesman for U.S. District Court in Washington said today. The settlement, which included a local prosecutor and the Federal Reserve, relates to a previously disclosed probe of dollar payments from 2002 through April 2007, the bank said today in a statement.”
Disastrous subway cuts -- but no cuts to the bureaucracy? "New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Wednesday approved drastic service cuts as part of its new budget that must close a nearly $400 million deficit. The service cuts would include closing two subway lines, cutting station agents, slashing weekend and overnight service, and forcing pupils to pay for their travel to school, but MTA Chairman Jay Walder, at a webcast board meeting, promised to review the cuts over the next few weeks to see if their impact can be lessened.”
"Let me be clear" means "I am about to lie": "'There are those who claim we have to choose between paying down our deficits … and investing in job creation and economic growth,’ President Obama said last week. ‘This is a false choice.’ During the same speech, he asked his audience to ‘let me just be clear’ that his administration, having racked up the biggest budget deficits ever, is embracing fiscal responsibility, as reflected in his vow that ‘health insurance reform’ will not increase the deficit ‘by one dime.’ For connoisseurs of Obama-speak, the address featured a trifecta, combining three of his favorite rhetorical tropes. There was the vague reference to ‘those who’ question his agenda, the ‘false choice’ they use to deceive the public, and the determination to ‘be clear’ and forthright, in contrast with those dishonest naysayers. These devices are useful as signals that the president is about to mislead us.”
Free stuff from Uncle Sam: "I just got a free golf cart. Actually, it cost me $6,490 — but the dealer, Colin Riley of Tucson, Ariz., points out that there’s a $6,480 federal tax credit on such vehicles. Riley runs ads that say: ‘FREE ELECTRIC CAR … !’ Some consumers probably assume it’s a car-dealer scam, but it’s not. It’s an Uncle Sam scam.”
FTC suit against Intel misguided and uninformed: "Today the Federal Trade Commission filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against Intel Corporation. The suit, which accuses Intel of violating Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914, comes on the heels of a separate antitrust lawsuit filed against Intel last month by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Technology analysts at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based public interest group, questioned whether the FTC’s action is actually about protecting consumer welfare. ‘This lawsuit may succeed at grabbing headlines, but it won’t benefit consumers one bit,’ declared Ryan Radia, Associate Director of Technology Studies.”
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Posted by JR at 1:43 AM