President Obama is acting more and more like a drunk friend who is embarrassing himself in public. I want to put an arm around him and get him safely home before he can hurt anyone or embarrass himself any more. Most recently, he was talking to Matt Bai, Why Obama Is Happy to Fight Elizabeth Warren on the Trade Deal. Bai said, “Senator Warren said this week this pact could be used to roll back Dodd-Frank, which is closed to your heart…” The president interrupted him before he could finish, saying, “She’s totally wrong.” He went on to say, “The notion that I had this massive fight with Wall Street to make sure that we don’t repeat what happened in 2007, 2008. And then I sign a provision that would unravel it? I’d have to be pretty stupid”
Massive fight with Wall Street? I don’t remember that. About the worst thing that I remember Obama doing against Wall Street was saying that some of them were “fat cats.” We could start by noting that Dodd-Frank itself, while an improvement, is still pretty weak tea. But I can’t remembering two things about Obama and Wall Street. The first is that Wall Street was among his biggest backers in 2008. The second is that he bailed out Wall Street while allowing home owners to just dangle. As Roger Hodge put it in The Mendacity of Hope, “TARP participants were asked to fill out a simple two-page form, several orders of magnitude less complex and less onerous than an application for unemployment insurance or food stamps.” So “Obama: Wall Street Slayer” is at best the figment of his imagination, or just a pretty story that he thinks he can get over on the rest of us.
Dean Baker has a deeper memory than I do, In Arguing for TPP President Obama Gets Carried Away in Resting on His Credentials as a Foe of Wall Street. He adds six specific examples:
- He has not sought the criminal prosecution of any executives at major banks for issuing or securitizing fraudulent mortgages, nor against executives at credit rating agencies for knowingly granting investment grade ratings to securities containing large numbers of improper or fraudulent mortgages.
- He opposed the Brown-Kauffman bill, which would have broken up the big banks.
- He did nothing to push cram-down legislation in Congress, which would have required banks to write-down the value of some underwater mortgages to the current market value of the home.
- He supported the stripping of the Franken Amendment from Dodd-Frank. This amendment (which was approved by a large bi-partisan majority in the Senate) would have eliminated the conflict of interest faced by bond-rating agencies by having the Securities and Exchange Commission, rather than the issuer, pick the rating agency. (The line from opponents was that the SEC might send over unqualified analysts. Think about that one for a while.)
- He only began to push the Volcker rule as a political move to shore up support the day after Republican Scott Brown won an upset election for a Senate seat in Massachusetts.
- The administration had to be pushed by labor and consumer groups to keep a strong and independent consumer financial protection bureau in Dodd-Frank.
I’m starting to get a really bad taste in my mouth regarding Obama’s recent TPP tour. He’s begun to sound just like the caricature of conservative lore. He’s the smart guy who knows what’s going on and all the little people just need to follow along. It isn’t necessary to see the see what’s going on with the man behind the curtain: just focus on the Great and Powerful Obama.
Right now, I don’t so much want to take Obama home as punch him in the stomach. Anything to shut him up. When any politician tells you to trust them while not allowing you to see what they are doing, the Scarecrow’s reaction is the right one, “You humbug!”