Saturday, November 22, 2008

The savior mentality...

Don't get me wrong.  I supported Obama, and voted for him.  But I am mildly disturbed by the popular mentality evinced by the "Geithner Rally" yesterday.
Second, there’s been growing anxiety (among, well, just about everyone) about the vacuum of leadership in Washington, and about the fact that we have another two months before Obama is inaugurated. And Obama’s silence this week—his failure to make a public push for Congress to pass even an interim stimulus package, and his refusal to say anything about the automakers—was making people uneasy. The Geithner appointment doesn’t solve the interregnum problem, obviously. But it does reassure Wall Street that a smart, capable person—who isn’t Hank Paulson—will be running Treasury, and that Obama is serious about bringing real stability to the markets. Obama is supposedly going to introduce his entire economic team next week, and that will also be good for the markets, since it’ll give him a chance to lay out, even if only in broad strokes, what he plans to do as soon as he takes office. Two months is too long, but markets are forward-looking, and if people get the sense that real change (major fiscal stimulus, spending the rest of the TARP, saving the automakers, and so on) will be implemented in January, it could create a sense of optimism, however fleeting. [More from the usually unflappable James Suroweiki]
The anxiety was mirrored by our own Chip Flory in an equally rare snit:
To Obama: Do what you were elected to do
— lead! I don’t care if you’re not president.
The majority wants you to be, so step up!
Announce your Cabinet picks — or at least
the Treasury Sec. — the markets want to
know. While you’re no longer a Senator... you
can still lead. There’s lots of work to do in this
country to get it back on its feet and nobody
is stepping up to get it done. [More from the latest ProFarmer newsletter, if you subscribe]

Well, I do care if he's not President.  There is a little thing we call the Constitution that, while gun lovers and others love to quote, they readily discard when their money is involved.  [Besides, our (and I suspect Chip's) problem would seem to be Verasun - which really isn't a victim of Wall Street, but their own bad business choices.]

Obama is not the President, and we don't have any provision or tradition of assuming power before inauguration.  It's worked out so far.  If you want it to change, lose the Electoral College, which is why we have this delay, remember?

I didn't think so.

Weren't any of these people paying attention during the campaign?  It wasn't Obama who suspended his campaign and flew into Washington and did ummm... nothing.  Nor did he panic as Democrats were screaming at him during the fleeting moments of Palin-fascination.  This is No-Drama Obama.  Seriously.

But the overarching mood of finding "some guy" with the answers to "do something" is absurd. To begin with, experts and the nation are split on bailouts, especially for the auto industry.  Economists are all over the board and mostly concentrating on criticizing ideas put forward with scholarly zest rather than take the blame for proposing one.

It is in such an uncertain, badly informed atmosphere as this that the free market works better than panic driven powerplays. Acting with deliberate pace and after considerable thought is not to be despised, and shrill calls for Superman to save us is merely an effort to avoid the personal agony and sacrifice of building a group solution one life at a time.

There is no White Knight nor Magic Bullet. There are only the American people and our will to carry on.  While leaders can point the way, they should do so in an example that at least resembles sober reflection and a lack of desperation.

I'm glad the stock market took heart from the simple selection of one of many qualified people to be Secretary of Treasury. But Obama could have nominated Donald Duck and it appears some folks would  say. "Yeah, he's just the cartoon we need to fix things".

Our nation needs to get a collective grip. While I do believe there is a time to panic, we missed it eight months ago or so.  Things are not going to get better.  Things will have to get fixed.  By us.


Anonymous said...

John, I thought you were a "free marketer". McCain was the one who wanted to reduce subsidies and approve more trade agreements(not renegotiate them). Obama is the man for protectionist policies. What gives? We made our choice on his promises. Now we must all live with the consequences. But lets not make believe they weren't made and change them to what we wish they would have been.

John Phipps said...


You are right. As I have said, if trade and ag policy were the only considerations McCain would have been my choice. For me several other issues competed for importance and McCain fared poorly compared to Obama.

I am not optimistic about our trade future, but as I have written countless times, it is our ag lobby and its opposition to compromise at Doha that is the real deal killer - not the White House occupant. If you read Obama's trade statements, you'll notice they leave much room to be negotiated and I think/hope he will listen to economic council. With the economy shrinking all bets are off. Bailouts are anti-trade when you think about it and several other economic action being taken by government leaders. We can't trade if we're not functioning as an economy.

Perhaps many made their election decision based on promises. I did not. I chose for competence and character. It is certainly possible I have been cleverly misled, but I doubt as badly as I was in 2000.

Anonymous said...


Are you sure that Geithner is "qualified" for the job? He supported this banking mess.

I agree that folks will jump at anyone different now, even the duck.

John Phipps said...


I'm no longer sure I know what the qualifications should be...

Ol James said...

1 -breathing,
2-a contributor
3- as few skeletons in the closet as possible.

couldn't resist...