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Thursday, September 18, 2008

John McCain's Plan to Come Up With a Plan

On September 17, 2007, Barack Obama went to Wall Street and said that our capital markets could not function without the confidence and trust of the public. Nearly one year later, a wave of economic crises has sapped the public's trust and led us into the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The turmoil in our financial markets threatens our economy's ability to create good-paying jobs, help working Americans pay their bills and mortgage payments, and achieve the American Dream. Barack Obama believes that America's workers and our free market system have always been the engine of America's economic progress. Yet that progress has come only because we have made choices to invest in our people and guide the market's invisible hand with rules of the road that help both Main Street and Wall Street. Over the past several years, we have abandoned these rules in favor of a governing philosophy intent on shredding consumer protections, loosening oversight and regulation, and encouraging outsized bonuses to CEOs while ignoring middle-class Americans. President Bush and John McCain share this reflexive anti-regulatory approach and have been asleep at the switch as our economy has spiraled downward.
-First paragraph of Barack Obama's response to the market meltdown, "Restoring Confidence In Our Markets And Changing Our Economic Course" [PDF].

We’re going to need a 9/11 Commission to find out what happened and what needs to be fixed.
-John McCain's response on ABC's Good Morning America

A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll asked respondents, "Regardless of who you may support, who do you trust more to handle an unexpected major crisis: Obama or McCain?" 37% thought Barack Obama would do a better job, compared with 54% who thought John McCain would do better. Judging from the reactions above, it's hard to imagine how these respondents could've been more wrong.

While Obama reacts to the crisis with a detailed plan to deal with it, McCain proposes we study the problem with a blue ribbon panel who -- you assume -- would come up with a detailed plan to deal with it. The 9/11 commission was created in 2002. Its findings came out in 2004. I don't know about you, but I don't think we should let the market burn for two years before we have some idea how to put out the fire. We kind of have to deal with this now, not two years from now. In this crisis, at this time, John McCain is pretty useless.

Of course, I don't think this is what people had in mind when asked about an "unexpected major crisis." They probably thought of natural disasters or some sort of attack, but I guess that's the nature of the unexpected -- what you imagine it to be is wrong. Since it's unexpected, you can't prepare for it. And, since it's unexpected, you can't guess the reaction to it with any accuracy. The only way to find out which candidate would flinch is to take a swing.

In this unexpected major crisis, it's definitely John McCain who flinched. Obama's plan came out yesterday, McCain's would come out at some undefined point in the future -- perhaps, far in the future. As I pointed out yesterday, McCain served on the Senate Commerce Committee -- for four years. How can he be so clueless about economic issues? He's been in Washington forever. What kind of a learning curve is that? John McCain seems to be a delegator and his choice of delegates would seem to be worth looking into.

Over at MoJo Blog, David Corn, Jonathan Stein, and Nick Baumann put together a list of 83 Wall Street lobbyists working for McCain's campaign. At the same time, McCain is trying to play economic populist by running against Wall Street. You may not recognize the lobbyists' names, but you'd recognize many of the interests they represent. Five from AIG, nine from Merrill Lynch, one from Lehman Brothers. Possible future debacles Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs also make appearances with one and five lobbyists respectively. McCain's bona fides as a champion of the common man are questionable at best.

Meanwhile, this champion of the common man -- with his newfound sidekick -- has been going around the country telling people that Obama's tax plan will ruin the economy. But as economic journalist Dean Baker points out, this is ridiculous BS.

It would have been worth pointing out under President Clinton the economy had tax rates in place that were comparable to those proposed by Senator Obama. On average, the private sector created almost as many jobs in each year of the Clinton administration as it has created during the entire Bush administration. In other words, Governor's Palin claims that Obama's proposed tax increase on the wealthy would destroy jobs has no basis in reality...

Given a choice between a Clintonian domestic economic policy and a Bushian "let Wall Street do whatever the hell they want" policy, I think we can see which one would be wiser. McCain's talking about regulation now, but he was all for deregulation before. This is what we liberal elitists refer to as "closing the barn door after the horse got out."

McCain's 9/11 commission on the economy was actually his second reaction to the crisis. His first was to, like Herbert Hoover before him, deny there even was a crisis. His second is to pass the buck. But it's that first reaction that John McCain is working to live down.

L.A. Times:

Under fire for his assertion that the American economy is fundamentally sound, John McCain moved Tuesday to assure voters of his empathy and accused Barack Obama of attempting to take political advantage of the roiling Wall Street crisis.

Obama on Tuesday castigated McCain as having been "scornful" of the very Wall Street regulations he was now espousing, and he launched television ads mocking McCain's Monday statement.

The Arizona senator spent seven national TV interviews and two campaign events seeking to make it clear that he understood the depth of concern about the rocky economy.

Of course, his second reaction isn't any better. John McCain would go back to the Wall Street lobbyists and ask them how to fix the mess unregulated Wall Street created. I suppose you could argue this is like turning to Hannibal Lecter to bust Buffalo Bill, but you couldn't argue that very well. It's more like asking Hannibal to help bust Hannibal. He's not really going to have your best interests in mind.

Barack Obama took McCain's uncertainty and reliance on lobbyists and turned it into what I consider to be yesterday's quote of the day.

“This is somebody who’s been in Congress for twenty-six years, who put seven of the most powerful Washington lobbyists in charge of his campaign, and now he tells us that he’s the one who will take on the ol' boy network,”Obama said before a crowd in Elko, Nev.

"The ol’ boy network? In the McCain campaign, that’s called a staff meeting," Obama said.

And that ol' boy staff meeting would in turn be called a blue ribbon panel, set to study the crisis and come up with a plan -- in, maybe, two years. Meanwhile, Obama comes up with a plan the same week.

Who's better in any hypothetical unexpected crisis? I guess it's impossible to say. It is unforeseen, after all. But who's better in this crisis?

Barack Obama. Hands down.