Friday, February 26, 2010

washington vs. wall street

Over the past year, Washington and Wall Street have been attacking each other. In his State of the Union address, President Obama attacked both. After a year into his administration, President Obama has hit a new tone: populism. With his ratings falling, and support of his policies dwindling, Obama is seeking to reenergize those who voted in change only 14 months ago. Yet his approach will only worsen the problems.

The attack on Wall Street might actually end up hurting the economy at a time when it is least needed. In a time of economic uncertainty, what is needed is a clear message so investors will know how to respond. Mixed signals are forcing investors to look elsewhere, unsure of what is going to be taxed or regulated. His populist appeal is elongating the capital freeze, which will only elongate the recession.

This uncertainty is because a lot of what he says simply doesn’t add up. The number one issue is jobs and helping the economy to recover, and a major part of the sluggish recovery is the credit freeze by banks. Yet his proposed bank tax will take the money banks could be loaned out to small businesses and transfer that to the government. In addition, he stated that he does not want to punish the banks, yet the tax is a punitive fee for “bad behavior.”

Then there was the attack on Washington. It is difficult for a citizen to hear a President talk about Washington as an outside after being in office for a year with a super majority in both houses. He said all this while referring to cynicism and distrust of Washington, citing reckless Wall Street and lobbyists as the cause while completely ignoring the backroom deals and closed-doors negotiations. He blamed Congress, calling out the Senate for not passing his financial reform bill. He even hammered on the Supreme Court for declaring parts of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform unconstitutional.

His solution? Demand it. If Congress won’t approve a finance commission, he’ll issue an executive order. If the Supreme Court is going to shoot down finance reform, he’ll get a bill passed through Congress. Because the separation of powers is impeding his agenda, he sees it fit to circumvent these checks and balances. Apparently he is the only one with good ideas, and whatever he says should be what is done. This man does not seem to understand that perhaps everyone is opposing him for a reason; that perhaps people are dissatisfied with Washington because of what he’s trying to do.

Quite possibly the most pompous declaration of all, and a major contribution to the distrust of Washington, was that we Americans do not agree with healthcare reform because we do not understand it; that if we had known “what was in it for us,” we would be in support of his agenda. This is arrogant for two reasons: first, he assumes that he could not possibly be wrong, but the millions of Americans who oppose it are wrong. Second, he assumes that Americans actually think entitlements and handouts are good and should be pursued, when many of those who opposed his reform do so precisely for the reason that it is an entitlement and an expansion of federal authority.

This over-exertion of executive authority will only exaggerate American’s view of Washington. Obama is attempting to establish the presidency has the head of all three branches of government. Clearly, this is precisely the type of tyranny the framers of the Constitution tried to avoid.