Monday, September 15, 2008

John McCain is from Mars, Sarah Palin is from Venus

It's a circus out there mama. From ABC News:
Sarah Palin deviated briefly from her standard stump speech to acknowledge the news from Wall Street today.

"This is an issue of real concern," Palin told thousands gathered in a rodeo ring in Golden, Colo. But, she said, "I'm glad to see the Federal Reserve has said 'no' to using taxpayer money for a bailout."

Palin's remarks echoed McCain's calls to overhaul outdated regulations and bring accountability to the financial markets. Palin accused Wall Street regulators of being "asleep at the switch," and vowed that she and McCain would "put an end to the mismanagement and abuses."

For those of you playing at home, let me translate this into plain English. When a Republican says "outdated regulations" they are talking about all regulations. Let me give you the Cliff Notes breakdown of how this came to be.

You see, there was this thing called the Great Depression. It was the market at its very freest. I'm sure all of you are well read enough to know how bad of a time it was. Anywho, from policy to ideology, the horror of the financial collapse gave way to the New Deal and liberal economics; initiatives that literally saved the country and which continued well into the 70s, where even Richard Nixon found time to put forth several new regulatory programs and departments (OSHA and the EPA stand out). Actually, that's not completely true; the fun started to happen under the Nixon administration in the form of Howard Phillips and the Office of Economic Opportunity. However, this incident may have been more about Nixon's personal politics rather than conservative ideology. It's tough to say. Anywho...

Ronald Reagan came into office in 1980 and literally blew up government. Today's "drill now" crowd probably doesn't remember James Watt, Reagan's first Secretary of the Interior, but he would be a tremendous role model as he was a man of great conservative principles; simultaneously attempting to dismantle the department from within and do away with cumbersome environmental programs that stopped wealthy Reagan donors from making boatloads of money. He was an all around loon to boot.

For the EPA, Reagan chose Anne Gorsuch, a Palin-esque nobody from Colorado with zero experience in environmental issues. Gorsuch stacked the agency with lobbyists while booting out experienced civil servants.

There are plenty of other examples to choose from.

Getting around to the regulatory point of this little post, Reagan's insane appointments not only destroyed morale at government agencies, but they began to effectively end any meaningful enforcement and regulation of the industries and issues they were tasked with providing oversight for. (In a weird way, Sarah Palin is the ultimate conservative executive appointment: someone so horribly unqualified for the day-to-day operations of the job while being able to maintain political support because of her ideological bona fides, leaving her as little more than a government-killing dumb bomb--the target is still big enough that she just needs to be pointed in the right direction. She is the perfect mix of base-revving ideology and government-destroying incompetence.)

In the days since Reagan, basic conservative incompetence has been compounded by the further detoothing of regulatory law with the institution of concepts like "industry review", which enjoys its current form in one of the worst pieces of legislation ever passed by an American Congress: the Data Quality Act.

The DQA (which was passed with no public hearings or notice) is a nasty little piece of legislation that allows corporations, lobbyists, whomever to challenge the studies upon which regulatory agencies base their decisions. You may be saying to yourself, "But that doesn't sound all that bad Mr. Sponge." Here's the kicker: the DQA allows industry to challenge the regulatory process at each and every step of the way and the results are not adjudicated strictly by peer review or expert consensus. Let's say that you don't like the EPA's conclusion that the drainage systems in your pools kill little kids. Through the DQA you can request the government data, hand it over to the Heritage Foundation, sprinkle a little fairy dust on the results and present a completely different take back to your pals in the executive branch. The bottom line here is that the DQA gums up the system. It introduces clearly partisan and partial interests into a process that needs to rely on the scientific method as much as possible. Everyone and anyone can become an expert under DQA...which, by the way, is a popular strain of thought in modern conservatism--it's the big engine that drives the victimhood machine.

Wrapping this little bad boy up, it is truly laughable that McCain and Palin want to reform the "outdated" regulatory system of the US government. From Glass-Steagall (which is especially interesting today) to OIRA, the federal regulatory system has been systematically raped by the conservative movement. It is part of their ongoing war against the New Deal. The problem here is that the reason why we have things like the big s#$tpile, collapsing financial institutions, poisoned food, crappy mines, and so on and so forth is because conservatives have made a cynical play to destroy government with incompetence rather than carry out their sick mission out in the open. It would be pretty tough to win elections if your stated goal was to destroy government agencies that people actually like. Since Reagan, the federal government has been filled with people who hate government. Since Reagan, the federal regulatory system has been raped by people who have no interest in regulation. Of course this system is outdated!!! It's run by people who want it to fail!!!

Adding to the absurdity of the matter, John McCain's chief financial adviser is the very man who wrote and helped pass the piece of legislation that many experts cite as the genesis of our current predicament:
The general co-chairman of John McCain’s presidential campaign, former Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas), led the charge in 1999 to repeal a Depression-era banking regulation law that Democrat Barack Obama claimed on Thursday contributed significantly to today’s economic turmoil.


Gramm’s role in the swift and dramatic recent restructuring of the nation’s investment houses and practices didn’t stop there.

A year after the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act repealed the old regulations, Swiss Bank UBS gobbled up brokerage house Paine Weber. Two years later, Gramm settled in as a vice chairman of UBS’s new investment banking arm.

Later, he became a major player in its government affairs operation. According to federal lobbying disclosure records, Gramm lobbied Congress, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department about banking and mortgage issues in 2005 and 2006.

During those years, the mortgage industry pressed Congress to roll back strong state rules that sought to stem the rise of predatory tactics used by lenders and brokers to place homeowners in high-cost mortgages.

For his work, Gramm and two other lobbyists collected $750,000 in fees from UBS’s American subsidiary. In the past year, UBS has written down more than $18 billion in exposure to subprime loans and other risky securities and is considering cutting as many as 8,000 jobs.

Many of you may remember Gramm from the time when he called you a bunch of whiners. You'll have to excuse him. He's been a bit out of touch while selling out American interests to a foreign bank.

Merill Lynch CEO John Thain is also an adviser to Mr. McCain. I wonder if Palin and McCain will demand that his golden parachute not be deployed. Although he did manage to sell his company before it fell apart at the seams, so who knows?

Look, I was never going to vote for Palin or McCain in the first place but I'm beginning to wonder if I'd accept 4 more years of Bush rather than have to deal with these clowns. Palin has been holed up in Alaska remembering her lines and now she's expected to be taken seriously on matters of regulation and finance? She didn't even know how Freddie Mae/Fannie Mac worked a week ago....much like most conservatives didn't know who she was a whole 2 weeks ago. Oh well. They're all experts now.

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