Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Harold Meyerson: Idiot

I've been saying for years that the most overrated newspaper in America is the Washington Post. Sure, they cover the political side of D.C. very well but they still get out scooped far too often when you consider they have homefield advantage. But their entertainment coverage is sub-par. They do a bad job with world news and they do a horrible job covering the metro area (note: I lived in D.C. for five years between 2000 and 2006).

But what I always found interesting about the Post was that their lack of good columnists. I've always enjoy Marc Fisher but their op-ed page and writers have always seemed more reactionary than at the forefront. And now I can see why, because when they try to be out there at the forefront of the news you get crap like this. So in honor of Fire Joe Morgan calling it quits, it's the policy equivalent of what Ken Tremendous et all used to do. Our subject today? Harold Meyerson.

As he prepares to move back to Texas, our 43rd president is the beneficiary of Bush fatigue. The nation has long since repudiated him. Americans are looking ahead to the promise of Barack Obama.

Good start. How can this possibly go wrong? An anti-Bush column is harder to mess up than the Bush Administrations handling of pretty much anything!

And it's lucky for George W. Bush that they are, because his handling of our plunging economy is Hooverian in both its substance and inadequacy.

Ummm, okay. What's happening here?

Herbert Hoover, we should recall, had a program for dealing with the Depression. It consisted of lending to banks but opposing fiscal stimulus or direct aid to individuals. Which is why Hank Paulson's frenzied endeavors to prop up the banking sector and Bush's dogged resistance to assisting anybody else amount to pure neo-Hooverism.

Harold, Harold. Did you forget that we already had a stimulus? And about those banks... oh wait a second... okay.

Under immense pressure to do something, in late 1931 Hoover asked Congress to establish the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, to provide funds to banks it deemed creditworthy.

Yes! See this is the problem Harold! Hoover reacted TOO SLOWLY. It had been nearly two years, bank runs had taken place, Hoovers cash injection to banks happened at least 12 months too late. You can call W a lot of things, but he and his people did not wait too long to get money to the banks. They acted very quickly there, within weeks, but hey I'm going to guess you've never taken a history or economics class so this 'fact' is lost on you.

As breadlines lengthened, he vetoed a bill appropriating funds for public works on the grounds that it was inflationary and contained pork-barrel spending. Bankers would be saved; everyone else was effectively damned.

But see, this really didn't work out too well for FDR—the public spending that is. It actually didn't really help the American economy at all in the short run.

The Bush administration's approach to today's meltdown is to direct all its energies and largess to lending institutions. There is, as yet, no program to help floundering homeowners renegotiate the terms of their mortgages.

Yeah, but that's what they should have done. This is what the Swedes did in 1992 and what the Japanese didn't do in the 1990s. You're basically arguing that Bush should be more like Japan and Hoover (do nothing) and less like the Swedes (do something).

It's becoming increasingly clear, however, that while saving the banks may limit further calamities, it doesn't really save anybody else. Even with government-guaranteed lines of credit, financial institutions are refusing to lend money.

But it does! See if the banks don't have any money they won't lend it to anyone! Right now they have money and are hopefully just letting things sort out. Maybe Mr. Meyerson is calling for more bad loans from banks? I'm not sure... and yeah, I'm a little worried that banks aren't lending money right now, but you know what... maybe they're just getting their house in order. Figuring out what they own and who they owe money to. If banks are not lending money in six months, then yes, let's panic. But just because things haven't turned around in TWO MONTHS doesn't mean jack shit.

And this is the problem with the reporting of the Wall Street meltdown, credit crisis, and now the recession. Most of the media is expecting this to go away tomorrow. That just like this everything will be fixed. But it doesn't work that way. It takes time.

In a sense, Bush's inactivity is even less excusable than Hoover's. Unlike Hoover, Bush could learn from the successes of New Deal and World War II-era programs to revive the economy.

But he is doing something! Haven't you been paying attention? Bush and friends are giving billions (I mean trillions) of dollars away! Did you miss the bailout?

What's more, virtually every reputable conservative economist, from Martin Feldstein on down, now supports a government stimulus program.

True, but Congress needs to pass this and Congress is going to play politics, hold their breath for a few weeks, and let Obama sign that law.

So where's the outrage? Why aren't demonstrators besieging the White House? Where are the "Welcome to Bushville" signs in those neighborhoods where abandoned homes outnumber the occupied ones?

Well for starters 25% of Americans aren't unemployed and the farms haven't gone under and people's entire savings weren't wiped out... but that's details Harold. Details!

Yet in the hearts of his countrymen, Bush's place is already fixed. Even before the financial collapse, he was in the ninth circle of presidential hell, with Buchanan and Hoover.

Well at least you got one thing right.



Aaron said...

"If banks are lending money in six months, then yes, let's panic. But just because things haven't turned around in TWO MONTHS doesn't mean jack shit."

You meant "aren't", didn't you?

The Policy Boy said...

Yes, it's been changed. Thanks for pointing that out.