The worst thing about the utter despair I’m experiencing over the Obama administration’s almost sure-to-screw-the-pooch decision to just keep pouring money into the banks—with pretty much no accountability attached, or plans to nationalize or break them up—is the feeling that if Obama hadn’t been sucked into this disaster plan, he could have a real shot at being a great President. Now I fear he’s going to be a one-term President, because if this plan fails (and I believe Paul Krugman that it will for roughly the same reason he cites—giving money to the greedy fucks who got us in this situation is grade A stupid), then the Republicans have a decent-sounding argument against Obama in 2012. I’m not going to go so far as to say that I hope that happens, because of course no matter how badly Obama screws the pooch, AnyRepublican will do it worse with glee, but I’m just sort of amazed that Obama has so little regard to his re-election chances.
Of course, one reason Republicans are worse is they will not only do no damage control, they’d use this economic crisis as an excuse to fuck working people all the more, expand the gap between rich and poor even more, and generally mouth platitudes about saving money while growing the deficit to give money away to rich people without sparing a dime for the rest of us. And obviously, we’re one stimulus package down, and we’re probably looking at health care and other relief packages down the road with Obama and congressional Democrats. So there’s that. But if they completely fuck up this bank bailout situation, because they think nationalization is somehow worse for re-election chances than fucking up the economy, I don’t have much hope. I don’t think your average voter really cares if you nationalize the banks. Sure, there’s a bunch of loud “OMG SOCIALIST” assholes, but they’ll never vote for a Democrat anyway. The rest of the country doesn’t care, and if you quickly start selling the banks back to private investors in pieces, you can dodge the accusation that it’s some sort of permanent power grab. Honestly, most people just want to be sure their money isn’t going to disappear because banks are going under.
The sad thing is that there was a real opportunity here for the Obama administration to pull an FDR, and hire squadrons of eager young wonks who could scatter around the country and deal with the crisis on a regional basis. Instead of bailing banks out, I could see a situation where we work to buy up some of the assets and try to make something of them, perhaps taking a loss on most of them, but accepting that was a loss that was going to happen either way. And, if we had government employees making sure that actual money was going to actual goods and the losses were on government books, we’d be avoiding the sense that banks are just taking the checks and saying, “Thanks,” and disappearing into the night like a corrupt Chicago developer. Or, if that sounds too extreme, it might be enough for us to get a straight answer on how big a gulf there is between what these properties are worth and how the banks have them valued, so at least we know what size the pile of shit we’ve inherited is.
Not only is the throw-the-money-at-the-bankers solution dangerous, but it’s drawing out the situation, which means that we’re delaying the damage control section of recession coping. Sure, there was the economic stimulus package, but with the country hemorrhaging jobs by the minute, we’re going to need a lot more support. And that’s got to happen soon. Helping people on the ropes is legitimate economic intervention, even though conservatives would deny it to their deathbeds, because, of course, people on the ropes who are helped spend more money, helping kick start the economy. I feel that’s been forgotten in the past month in all the back-and-forth over the bank bailout situation.