Tuesday, January 27, 2009
So President Obama got Citigroup to cancel its order for a 50 million dollar corporate jet. It's good symbolism, I guess; but I'm much more outraged at this sort of stuff, as mentioned in Bob Herbert's latest column:
John C. Hope III, the chairman of the Whitney National Bank in New Orleans, in an address to Wall Street fat cats gathered at the Palm Beach Ritz-Carlton, said:
“Make more loans? We’re not going to change our business model or our credit policies to accommodate the needs of the public sector as they see it to have us make more loans.”
How’s that for arrogance and contempt for the public interest? Mr. Hope’s bank received $300 million in taxpayer bailout money.
The same article quoted Walter M. Pressey, president of Boston Private Wealth Management, which Mr. McIntire described as a healthy bank with a mostly affluent clientele. It received $154 million in taxpayer money.
“With that capital in hand,” said Mr. Pressey, “not only do we feel comfortable that we can ride out the recession, but we also feel that we’ll be in a position to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves once this recession is sorted out.”
That, to me, is the problem with the bailout funds as handled by the previous administration: give it to the big guys and (at best) assume they'll do the right thing, or (at worst) laugh with them all the way to the, well, the banks.
So now, in righteous fury, the Republicans are demanding accountability. Where were they a few months ago? When the money comes from a Republican administration, anything goes. From a Democratic one -- one that, it's obvious, is enormously more committed to carefulness and openness -- they demand, DEMAND I tell you, controls.
The ability of politicians -- and I exclude none but one -- without the tiniest twinge of embarrassment to flip 180º under a different administration or when going from majority to minority or back is a wonder to behold. Check irony at the door, leave consistency back home, turn principle to pudding the moment you walk the halls of power.
At the risk of being proved wrong catastrophically, I continue to see in Obama someone who is entirely different, just as the people who voted for him were hoping. He really does think the way we do politics can be changed. To me, that's not in question. What is in question is whether he's right. Until Boehner goes flaccid, until Limbaugh's in limbo, I'd say the answer is no.