About the Bloomberg Hosted Republican Debate

You may not have seen the latest Republican debate on Bloomberg TV. You’re probably better off not seeing it. It was a little bit depressing in spots. Like when Mitt Romney and Herman Cain tried to argue that we both did and did not need the massive bailouts from the government. The bail out was needed, they say, but they didn’t like the way it was done. How did they think it would play out? Were they really surprised by it? And these are guys who want to be POTUS?

Then there was the conversation that started with a question from Karen Tumulty, a Washington Post Political Correspondent and the one who accused John McCain of playing the “race card” because he dared to run an ad critical of Barak Obama’s connection to  Franklin Raines, the former CEO of Fannie Mae. What Tumulty said was this:

Congresswoman Bachmann, three years after the financial meltdown, Main Street continues to suffer. People have lost their jobs, they’ve lost their homes, they’ve lost their faith in the future. But Wall Street is thriving. The banks not only got bailed out by the government, they have made huge profits, they’ve paid themselves huge bonuses.

Do you think it’s right that no Wall Street executives have gone to jail for the damage they did to the economy?

Sigh. Really? At this point in the story, there are still people who want to blame only Wall Street executives? Seriously? I’m not saying people on Wall Street did not do some wrong things. Of course they did. But to ask that question as if they were they were solely to blame for the entire financial crisis is just ludicrous. Thankfully, Michelle Bachmann, in one her more lucid moments, immediately began to place blame where it truly belongs: the U.S. government.

BACHMANN: I think if you look at the problem with the economic meltdown, you can trace it right back to the federal government, because it was the federal government that demanded that banks and mortgage companies lower platinum level lending standards to new lows.

TUMULTY: But the federal government has also deregulated them.

Groan. At best one might claim the federal government minimally deregulated them, which is to say, it removed a small amount of regulations. It did not, as the use of the word deregulate without modifiers implies, eliminate all regulations. There were more, not less but more, regulations in the year 2008 than there were in the year 2000. The number of regulations, particularly of the financial sector, has not gone down in any significant fashion. To claim banks and mortgage companies were deregulated as if all regulations had been removed is more than a little deceptive.

So after Bachmann rightfully placed the blame where it belongs, Tumulty turned to Newt Gingrich to see if she could get him to blame Wall Street. He did not. But keep in mind how this part of the debate started. Remember that question Tumulty asked:“Do you think it’s right that no Wall Street executives have gone to jail for the damage they did to the economy?”

GINGRICH: The fact is, in both the Bush and the Obama administrations, the fix has been in. And I think it’s perfectly reasonable for people to be angry. But let’s be clear who put the fix in: The fix was put in by the federal government.

And if you want to put people in jail — I want to second what Michele said — you ought to start with Barney Frank and Chris Dodd and let’s look at the politicians who created the environment, the politicians who profited from the environment, and the politicians who put this country in trouble.

CHARLIE ROSE: Clearly you’re not saying they should go to jail?

Yeah, that’s right. Charlie Rose, who voiced no objection to Tumulty’s question, actually objected to the implied suggestion that two of the politicians responsible for the damage done to the economy should be sent to jail.

This is an inherent problem with the public debate over the financial problems of the country. Some people clearly refuse to accept the idea that government bears a large part of the responsibility for the damage done. But the banks, but the greedy CEOS, but, but, but… Here is a clue that I will give you for free: All those banks and CEOs and corporations did what they did in large part because of the government. All those greedy sub-prime loans, done because the government, with prompting from liberals and conservatives, pushed “affordable housing” for as many people as possible. And that is just one example. As Ron Paul later pointed out, “you can’t cure the disease if you don’t know the cause of it.” Until people are willing to admit that the government is holds the majority of the blame for what happened, they are not going to be willing to face up to what needs to be done to solve the problem.

We have some Republican politicians who are talking about it, but beyond Ron Paul and Gary Johnson, I doubt seriously whether any of them have the stones to follow up on that rhetoric and actually do something about it. Ronald Reagan talked about smaller government, and under his Presidency, the government got larger. George W. Bush campaigned on smaller government rhetoric, and he helped expand government at a pace only outdone by the current President. So when you see Romney and Cain and the like saying we needed this stimulus bill or that bailout package but they would have handled it differently, know that they are simply promising more of the same. The Republican Party should be embarrassed that Romney and Cain and Perry are their front-runners in the race for POTUS.

Herman Cain, I want to like. The problem is he keeps talking about being a business man and how he solved problems as a business man. Herbert Hoover was a business man too. And he too thought he could run the country the way he ran a business. And that was a disaster. And Cain’s 9-9-9 plan, I really don’t like. Nine percent income tax. Nice, but it will never stay at nine percent. Nine percent sales tax, not the worst idea, but he should pick a sales tax or an income tax. Not both. Nine percent corporate tax. No. We need no corporate tax. Cain claims his plan is bold and different. But we will still end up with the same old politics insisting that the “wealthy” (whoever they are) need to pay more, that the poor need tax breaks, that corporate profits are unfair, blah, blah, blah, yackity schmackity. The 9-9-9 plan is not terrible in concept, but I have no faith that it will be executed the way he claims. And even if he could get it passed in the first place, there is nothing to guarantee that it would not be changed in short order. Remember, nothing Congress does is permanent.

If I have time, I’ll talk more about the Bloomberg hosted Republican debate later. Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of spending all my time on this blog.

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