Monday, March 29, 2010

Dowd: The Church Needs A Nope!

Healthcare Noise

The GOP already has signaled its intent to wage a guerilla warfare campaign against the healthcare legislation which President Obama signed into law and those who voted for it.

Reports of physical and property threats against Democrats and their families has gone up and frustrated “Tea Party members,” running out of racial and sexual barbs are being challenged by the Republicans to upgrade their opposition as we cruise toward November. Great by me; that’s participatory democracy and should be encouraged, as long as it’s legal and civil.

Thirteen state Attorneys General filed suit in a federal court in Pensacola, Florida, minutes after Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The complaint calls the act an "unprecedented encroachment on the sovereignty of the states" and asks a judge to block its enforcement.

"The Constitution nowhere authorizes the United States to mandate, either directly or under threat of penalty, that all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage," the lawsuit states

The suit was filed by Florida’s AG, former Congressman and House Banking Committee member Bill McCollum and his fellows (including one Democrat).

I love these states rights guys. But where were they in 2000, when Floridians gave their individual and electoral votes to Albert Gore, apparently putting him over the top and making President of the United States?

The Rightists, then, copped the opposite side and asked a GOP dominated US Supreme Court to step in trample the rights of Florida voters and give the presidency to the Florida Governor’s brother. “Please trample this state’s rights,” they effectively wailed.

What a carnage of justice that was and what a resulting 8 year blow to the American people, our economy, international status, and aspirations—and that was before George W. Bush and his team lied to the American people and started a costly, questionable and useless war against Iraq.

How about those states rights’ apples?

Forgive me if I don’t get too excited over political losers crying over spilled milk. Even our right handed Supreme Court will have trouble overturning this act of Congress.

To the D’s

Why be in the majority if you can’t write legislation and policy the way you campaigned? Any Democrat worried about re-election because of his/her healthcare vote or any other past vote doesn’t deserve congressional office.

If you are so squirrelly that you begin to run when the political opposition makes loud scary noises or glassware starts breaking then you need to get into another line of business.

That’s like being a 40 year old virgin. It makes no sense!

Republicans will attack Democrats for their votes, no matter what else happens, so D’s should walk a thoughtful victory walk and light the victory cigar, at least until the “Fat Lady sings” in November, again.

Strut smartly D’s, don’t mince!

Former House Democratic Majority Leader Tony Coelho offered Democrats running in November this advice:

Democratic candidates must make this a debate about the bill’s individual components. Where does your opponent stand? Does he or she want to repeal the reform?
What exactly do Republicans plan on taking away from the American people?
Will they tell small-business owners in their districts that tax credits to provide health care for their employees will be repealed? Are they going to ask senior citizens to give back rebates for prescriptions not covered under Medicare? Will the Republicans throw the young people in their district to the wolves and take away their coverage? Will they tell those who were uninsured or denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions before this reform law passed that they are taking away their new coverage?
Democrats should seize the moment: Go to your base. Be proud of what you have done and tell your constituents what is in the bill. Don’t let your opponent frame the debate.

Fannie and Freddie and the “Truth Teller”

Having watched too many congressional hearings—exposing myself to 10 times the amount of bloviation (I love the word!) the average mind can tolerate--has generated in me a fantasy where I am in the hearing room and play the role of “Truth Teller.”

The TT really doesn’t exist. But it’s my dream and I play him/her, with license to comment on anything I hear which is fatuous, filled with misstatement or ironic enough to demand a response.

My dream role is a role any real Congressman/Senator can play, right now, if he or she is well informed. But so few congressional participants have the facts that they never seem to correct the erroneous/ironic statement which would cause my “Truth Teller” to spring into action.

Flash last week to the first day of House hearings chaired by Barney Frank (D-Mass) to “abolish” Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was committee’s the first witness (but not the best, as I will reveal in a moment). He delivered thoughtful testimony about the future mortgage finance and the GSEs.

Geithner reaffirmed many of the important mortgage finance systemic qualities which I’ve been writing about and he pledged the Obama Administration to hold on to what worked for the GSEs and the country and discard what didn’t, starting with ready availability of the 30 year fixed rate mortgage (which alone will insure Fannie/Freddie like qualities to whatever succeeds them), access to mortgage finance for those with modest incomes, efficiency, competition, and private capital.

While there were many opportunities for my imaginary TT that first day. But for me, Texas R Jeb Hensearling reached the height of pomposity, arrogance, patronization, and idiocy.

The seldom brilliant GOP Rep. Hensearling offered his disdainful two cents worth, questioning Geithner, and commented:

"Of all the dumb regulation and legislation that caused our economic crisis, none was dumber than that which created the [Fannie and Freddie] monopolies and gave them ever-increasing affordable-housing missions," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.).
OK, “Truth Teller” do your thing!

“ Congressman Jeb. You don’t know me, but I am the “Truth Teller” and you’re in my congressional hearing fantasy. Let me, answer your implicit question. The modern Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—with their annual national low-mod housing goals responsibilities—were created in 1992, under the Reagan Administration.

“For 24 years, those same structures and responsibilities were affirmed by several congresses and Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, until the companies were put into conservatorship by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson in 2008. (Read Paulson’s recent book, where I think he claims the Russians told him to do that number.)

“Many of those years saw the GOP controlling both the Congress and the Administration, but neither company was “abolished.”—far from it—they were enhanced, encouraged, and given bigger low-mod numbers to hit, as well as fewer tools to do so. Those facts suggest that the former GSEs housing goals, operations and growth, pre-Paulson, has Republican DNA all over them. Ergo, the answer to your question Jeb--with all due respect to Walt Kelly and Pogo--is that the “enemy is us,” meaning you and yours!

“Oh, and TT thinks you’re a fatuous blowhard, who bloviates!”

(I love the TT’s job!)

The five person panel following Geithner and representing trade associations, a conservative think tank, and low income interests had one extremely insightful statement, which I hope is carefully reviewed by committee members and their staffs.

That “prize” came from Sarah Rosen Wartell, Executive Vice President, the Center for American Progress, who discussed a recent 18 month Mortgage finance system study her group sponsored. She went through the Fannie/Freddie working model and described how the firms’ aberrant management business decisions in 2006 and 2007—specifically the purchase billions of dollars of Wall Street originated and guaranteed “private label mortgage backed securities” (PLS)--were the phenomenon which tanked Fannie and Freddie, not their structure or their affordable housing missions.

That fact alone—if internalized by the Committee and its staff—will be a great guide to their work.

The Mortgage Bankers Association testimony also stands out, but for its hoariness or I should say “whoriness!”

The MBA, all but a lame subsidiary of the American Bankers Association, offered a self-congratulatory litany of the work they’ve done on this “issue” and then proceeded to say how much private capital was needed in the market. Good point, but, what was their primary request? Their witness sought a new set of federal government mortgage guarantees to make it easier for mortgage companies. That ain’t “private capital,” guys.

Where was Rep. Hensearling, when needed, urging the myopic MBA to, “Just say goodnight Gracie?”

Short Shots

--Remember my “don’t trust the Russians” advice? Putin and Medvedev needed a nuclear arms deal more than the US did, but it seems we gave them budget relief and more on a silver platter, seemingly without getting any concessions re their behavior on Iran and other matters crucial to the US. When will we learn?

--Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn) surprised me with his strategy and his success moving a financial regulatory reform package. I thought Dick Shelby (R-Ala.) fighting his own internecine war with Bob Corker (R-KY.) would never let a bill out committee. Most of Shelby’s influence now could be lost.

Now on the outside looking in, no matter what he claims, Shelby is “depending on the kindness of strangers” or at least strange bedfellows.

Say “Goodnight Blanche!”

--I’ll largely leave the Pope and the Catholic Church alone this week; as more details come out about what the Pope as Cardinal Ratzinger did or didn’t do, when he was head of the Church’s “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” (which dealt with pedophile priests). The Church seems to be drowning in their explanations and excuses of the Pope’s tenure in that job.
(Wrote the above before seeing Sinead O’Connor’s column in yesterday’s Post “Outlook” section and Maureen Dowd’s NYT column. Both highly recommended.)


Maloni, 3-29-2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

Obama Healthcare Victory

Hooray for President Obama. Finally, he and the congressional leadership marshaled their majority numbers and approved something about which they can brag. I hope Sunday’s healthcare vote will embolden the President and congressional Democrats to begin putting their stamp on other policy changes and then aggressively running on that record this year and in 2012.

As I’ve noted before, in Washington you are either a sheep or wolf and the D’s never should emulate lamb chops, especially with their numerical superiority.

I believe the GOP intransigence and the Republican Party’s blind support of the insurance companies—who always have been major villains in this fight—will cost them in November, as they try and explain their opposition to making changes in a system badly in need of alterations.

When the noise over this weekend’s vote and subsequent Senate action to send the package onto the President subsides, voters and their families will start looking at how they will be affected and what’s in it for them. Once that happens, I think they will be angered that the GOP opposed so many desired reforms.

Come the fall congressional campaigns, you will see more GOP healthcare contrition than you find at a hundred AA meetings or Catholic confessionals.

The legislation that the GOP vilified and from which they walked away held some of their own positions. There were no government “death squads” (someone remind Sarah Palin of that fact) and no federal “public option,” ergo no “federal takeover of healthcare.” Whatever new insurance purchased will be supplied by the existing (very-GOP) private sector insurance companies which opposed the healthcare changes.

Even the American Medical Association (AMA), representing doctors nationwide—and not known to be fans of the Democrats--supported the package.

The final Senate votes will occur this week, but this doesn’t end healthcare as a political issue. “See you in September,” as the “Tempos” first sang in 1959 with absolutely no political inference!

Financial Reform?

Senator Chris Dodd’s (D-Conn) expansive financial reform bill, which has its initial congressional hearing this week, is the legislative matter which President Obama identifies as his next big priority. (Of course, immigration, jobs, Israel, Afghanistan and Iraq could jump to the queue’s front, not to mention “No Child..” and climate legislation.)

After trying but failing to get GOP support in his committee, Dodd has put together his own package, which gives the Fed more power at least at the expense of the regional Fed banks (but never the New York Bank) and is what will go to conference with Barney Frank’s (D-Mass) House-passed regulatory package, if Senate Republicans don’t complete destroy Dodd’s bill or hamstring the Senate legislative process.

I would rather have better regulators than more structural regulation. But, there is no way to insure the former, while the latter just requires a bunch of Senators and Congressmen tilting at windmills.

There still are daggers being stared—if not pointed--at Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) for his initial effort to reach some financial reform consensus with Democrat Dodd.

Corker violated the line in the sand which Republicans have drawn to thwart any GOP interest in bipartisanship. Republican friends told me how angry GOP leadership is with Corker because he tried to find some reasonable path through the financial reform partisan minefield.

These sources suggest that the GOP leadership may re-assign Corker’s office to the eighth floor of the Senate Russell Office Building…which only has five floors.

The House R’s on Fannie and Freddie

When Barney Frank begins his hearings aimed at “abolishing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” he’ll have some helpful allies based on a new GOP set of “principles,” a copy of which quotes most senior committee Republicans saying something evil about the GSEs.

There is nothing new or enlightening about their “principles” which just repeats all of the old anti-GSE bromides. But what is amazing is the Republican ignorance about risk and private capital, the latter they suggest would flow into the mortgage market if only the former GSEs were not there propped up by the federal government.

Yes, but who will make home mortgage loans until then?

The big bank GOP-saviors are free to enter the market now, but they all but refuse because they have become risk adverse. Fannie and Freddie’s current activities—as tools of the Obama Administration—provide the few banks willing to make loans a place to unload mortgage risk. The problem is the banks, contrary to what the committee R’s claim, don’t seem willing to lend very much of their TARP inflated assets for mortgages or to small businesses. It’s too convenient for them to arbitrage that money between the Fed and Treasury and build capital that way.

I think Chairman Frank understands what the naïve Committee Republicans don’t and that is, before you abolish Fannie and Freddie, you better have a well-designed replacement ready and because of bank behavior any successor institution(s) will look and act a lot like Fannie and Freddie.

Church Redux

Timing is everything. In my last blog, I got into the issue of child abuse, molestation, and the Catholic Church, just as the newsies started reporting big time the predictable comments from Church officials over disturbing reports from Germany and Ireland.

The Church’s recent utterances all seem to be variations of the “Nuremburg defense,” which it should be noted didn’t work for the Nazis after World War II.

The responses generally start with an apology and—in the case of those not accused of abuse but of protecting child molesters by ignoring their crimes and/or shuffling them to other dioceses--are followed by an excuse “I was ordered to do so by ______,” with the blank name usually being a senior church official who is dead or at the Bishop or Arch Bishop level, meaning he won’t be touched. That latter official, if he still is with us, generally has no memory of the incident.

The second variation is, “I am shocked. I had no idea that molestation or abuse was occurring at _____ (fill in the name of the Catholic institution or choir).” That’s called the “head in the sand” response. It can’t be believed either.

The issue of the Pope’s possible involvement in a cover-up to me is secondary. If the Church really was on top of its game, every Priest or Church official accused of child abuse would be temporarily removed from his religious role and the case turned over to civil authorities, since molestation is a crime. No Church official would intervene until civil authorities determined the guilt or innocence of the accused.

By handling cases themselves, Church officials hid the bad news by playing “post office,” sending the offending priest for “counseling” or shuttling him from location to location hoping that he would mend his ways and stop violating children or, at least, to do so quietly without calling attention to his actions.

I watched one of these accused priests on the news. Two of his former parishioners, now adults but once his altar boys described in excruciating detail how he had molested them.

The priest laughed at the charges, claimed they were preposterous, and explained that he wasn’t guilty.

But he couldn’t offer a reasonable explanation to the interviewer why he took the boys to a city health club—where members and guests pranced around naked--or why the boys were paid over a million dollars each by the Church to maintain their silence at the time.

Now that they are adults, the boys are talking and the priest, if guilty, I hope requires kaopectate for the rest of his life, whether he is thrown in jail or not.

One last word. I thought the Pope’s “Letter to the Irish people” was weak, given all that he could have said. While he clearly established his personal discomfort and anger at the degree of molestations and cover-up’s, he didn’t change any Church policy dealing with possible criminal behavior. Sexual predators, whether they are church men and women or not, have violated civil laws and their fate should be determined outside of the church and by civilian authorities.

The Pope might have generated more enthusiasm for his letter had he proclaimed some tougher handling of possible abusers. But he didn’t and just called on the aggrieved Irish Catholics—and others hoping for something dramatic in the letter--to trust in the same Church and principles which abandoned them and their children to predators.

Maloni, 3-22-2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Obama, the Roman Catholic Church, and Arizona

One thing that bedevils me about President Obama is that he seems too easily drawn to spreading himself thin. He takes on so many policy crusades that he dilutes his impact and leaves the public unsure of what are the real Obama priorities?

Healthcare, obviously, is one and it seems to be wobbly working its way through to some creative congressional resolution—over the kicking and screaming “no’s” of the GOP—and clearly, financial regulatory reform is another—being carried out over the kicking and screaming “no’s” of the GOP.

Economic recovery and generating jobs also is big with Obama and that is moving forward accompanied by the kicking and screaming “no’s” of the GOP.(Do you see a Republican pattern, here?)

And, just as we see important Obama efforts on Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, China trade, peace in the Middle East, and clean climate efforts, he now has decided to upgrade and improve, the Bush Administration’s “No Child Left Behind” national education efforts.

Does anyone in the White House, including the President, think--as I do--that maybe this is too much and that multiple initiatives—with most previous ones still unfinished--do him and the Democratic Party a disservice?

All of this bouncing around, in just his second year in office, certainly reflects a bevy of problems left over from George W. Bush. But the more common reaction from the public is people (the voters) don’t know what truly is important to President Obama. From their own lives, they know that they can’t do 10 things at once and I suspect they think the Obama Administration can’t either.

I’d rather the President work smart not merely work hard. Trying to do too much in so many policy areas achieves little. I know that Confucius didn’t say this, but some fortune cookie somewhere warns, “He who tries to do everything often succeeds at doing nothing.”

I have no doubt that Barack Obama would like to “fix” all of these problems areas, but in today’s political and economic environment, that is impossible.

Prioritize and concentrate. The President needs to string together some successes, first. If new policy campaigns are required, the President should let his Cabinet officers step forward and “drive the bus,” with his efforts backing them.

The Catholic Church, the Pope, and Child Abuse

I see fear, intimidation, deceit, embarrassment, violence, religious dogma, political intrigue, and finally anger and great courage. No, it is not a new Dan Brown novel, just another tale of child abuse within the closed confines of the Catholic Church.

I am outside of my professional experience ruminating on child molestation and the Catholic Church, but—despite the appearances—I am angered and don’t believe that abuse is one of the Church’s tenets, but a ton seems to have happened in it and its schools.

The practice has been around for centuries but major news only in the last 20 years as victims grew bitter and spoke out. (I always honk a thumbs up “salute” to the poor older man who daily pickets in front of the Vatican Embassy, at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Reno Road in the District of Columbia, “seeking justice,” displaying signs alleging that priests molested him when he was a child.)

The United States has had these lurid stories for most of two decades. It has been estimated that the Church had paid out almost $2 billion in U.S. law suit damages, alone.

A few years ago it hit in Ireland and now Catholic Germany gets its share of notoriety, with allegations now nipping at the heels of current Pope Benedict XVI, the former George Ratzinger, who before becoming elevated to lead the Catholic Church in 2005 was a prominent German Cardinal.

Nobody is suggesting that Benedict personally was involved in the recently divulged German ugliness, but—as Cardinal--he may have provided protection for those who were. (It’s a tired old story, given repeated life by the perpetrators and the protectors of the individuals who used their church power and authority to abuse children, mostly males but females as well.

This weekend also brought similar news of the well known Mexican founder of the mysterious “Legion of Christ,” the late Rev. Marcial Maciel, who reportedly abused young boys and girls, as well as his two male children born through his secret sexual relationship with a fellow countrywoman.

Everybody associated with the various religious institutions, where abuse seemed concentrated or with the accused priests, apologizes and claims how sorry they are for the individuals who were victimized. But dozens of lawsuits seem to get filed regularly against priests who carry out the disgraceful acts, or those church officials who tried to protect them or douse news about them.

Over the years, an astonishing number of pederast priests seemed just to get moved from diocese to diocese, yet continued their sexual onslaught against children.

The heinous revelations seldom stop—the locales change, occasionally—then more revelations, more Vatican apologies, and lawsuits flow, suggesting that whatever the Church is doing isn’t sufficient to control and pre-empt these atrocities.

Child molestation occurs in other institutions, not just the Catholic Church. But the Peter’s Church seems to draw more than its share of men (and a few women) for whom this reprehensible conduct is second nature or maybe first nature.

I am curious as to see how the Vatican will respond to the newest charges that could eat further into the Church’s authority, membership, and coffers, now that Pope Benedict and his brother, George—who was head of a prestigious German boys choir where incidence of sexual abuse supposedly occurred—the media have connected to this slimy caldron. (Again, neither of the Ratzinger brothers has been accused of acts against children, just that they might have turned a blind eye to those actions by others in their charge.)

Conviction on serial abuse and child molestation charges is the one crime for which I readily could support a mandatory death penalty.

JD is Going to the Dogs, if That’s Where the Votes Are

Nuts are nuts, but right wingers bring a certain spice to their ravings.

The nation was offered one more reason why Arizona Republicans should not vote for J.D. Hayworth, who is challenging John McCain in that state’s GOP Senate primary.

J.D.--a former House member (who lost) and TV sportscaster--recently suggested that gay marriage could lead to “bestiality.” (I wonder how he knows?)

I am sure that J.D. loves his horse and dog, but there have to be limits to that affection, even in Arizona.

Maloni, 3-16-2010

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


What is Barney Frank (D-Mass) thinking?

I’m sure I’m not the first person to wonder what, beyond his legendary intelligence and quick wittedness, causes the cerebral and sometimes volatile Chairman of the House Banking Committee to stake out the policy positions he takes.

Recently, as the world now knows, Frank called for “abolishing” Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He soon will initiate congressional hearings to produce that desired legislative result.

The fact that the Obama Administration hasn’t reached the same fever pitched conclusion as Barney likely means that this atomization will not occur in an already volatile political year. Since moving forward in this regard—with no idea what to employ as a mortgage finance system replacement--is fraught with huge political and systemic mortgage business risk for the Democrats and the mortgage industry.

Last week, Barney’s took it upon himself to lob another grenade at the former GSEs and reminded investors that Fannie/Freddie debt and MBS securities were not the equal to Treasuries and that those who bought company securities could end up getting a financial “haircut,” or less money than they expected when they bought the bonds.

While legally and technically correct, what Barney said flies in the face of what the Treasury sales campaign to assure markets, i.e. that the former GSEs debt and securities are safe and the Treasury does stand with them, since the United States mortgage market—which right now is standing on Fannie’s and Freddie’s shoulders—relies on the two companies largely unfettered access to credit market.

Fannie and Freddie Still “It”

Like it or not, Fannie and Freddie alone are carrying out the secondary mortgage market policies that the Treasury wants performed and which the nation demands. The fact is, without Fannie and Freddie, the US would have no “conventional” secondary mortgage market where non-government guaranteed mortgage loans are securitized and sold throughout the world.

I can’t explain what was on Chairman Frank’s mind, but I don’t think that he was just “rattling the market’s cage, because he knows he can,” as some have suggested.

Barney—whom I suspect hasn’t changed much in the years—always was tough and ornery to lobby, the most difficult official to meet with and nail down on matters. His mind was always three steps ahead you. He was impatient and he didn’t suffer fools “gladly,” even when he agreed with you.

Tough and now likely GSE-hostile, I do not believe that Barney Frank is irresponsible and wanton.

He’s mad at Fannie and Freddie and that’s clear. His anger and “abolish” statements support that, but he understands that whatever system he designs it’s going to have to look a lot like what F&F looked like and produce much of what F&F produced.

He’s not going to throw the nation’s mortgage lending to the large commercial banks and their subsidiaries and have his name on that enabling legislation which would erode everything he has championed.

Can’t Just be The Feds

I don’t think Chairman Frank wants only the federal government lending for home ownership. I am sure that he wants private entrepreneurs and private money—not federal appropriations—doing most of the work to give Americans their share of the “American Dream.”

I imagine that he would like a new system which continues to take advantage of US financial products. i.e., bonds and securities backed by mortgages, which appeal to investors across the world and thus bring in dollars from overseas to meet US domestic mortgage needs.

Certainly he is joined in that by the nation’s homebuilders, Realtors, their employees and equipment suppliers, furniture, rug, window and appliance makers do and every other industry which supplies households with goods and services. That’s why the “homebuilding” segment of our economy has produced 20% or more of our gross national product.

Does he want to abolish the efficient secondary mortgage market system the US enjoyed pre Paulson’s “Bush whacking” of Fannie and Freddie? I hope not.

Can he really have problems with dedicated national mortgage investors, which standardized mortgage products so that families in every community in the nation could enjoy the same mortgages and pricing? Does he want to endorse a mortgage market that regresses and shifts the supply and availability of mortgage money from international investors to domestic savers?

I suspect not.

Is he upset at the millions and millions of low-moderate and middle income homebuyers, with increasingly in black and Hispanic communities, which benefited from a mortgage system that D’s and R’s in Congress supported year after year? I doubt it, since Barney would consider them his “people.”

Can’t Rely on the Banks

He and his staff must realize that those loans never would have been made by a primary mortgage market system which had no mandatory fair lending goals. They were made when Fannie and Freddie used market pressures to incent the banks and mortagge companies to originate those loans and in the process share the benefits of our nation with those traditionally ignored or left out.

All of this means if Barney is going to scuttle F&F, he just may end up recreating their clones.

Chairman Frank could be angry and aggravated because he long has supported Fannie and Freddie—when others in Congress didn’t—and he feels personally chagrined and disrespected by the GSEs for their dubious PLS subprime mistakes and all that it produced.

That’s understandable.

But it hardly is grounds for destroying a system which worked fabulously, until the bad GSE judgments by a few in power, drove faulty business decisions. Those same kinds of decisions were made by commercial and investment bankers across the world, with the results that many of them and their firms and officials--just like Fannie and Freddie and many of their employees--were forced out of business, lost jobs, earnings, and reputations.

I keep repeating that the “bad guys” are gone from the GSEs. Those who remain did not have their hands all over the stupid business decisions which have angered so many.

Policy makers shouldn’t let their personal peak destroy institutions which have shown their capacity to work and successfully perform a variety of desirable chores and which well could be superior to something “whiz bang and new” which their current frustrations breed.

Baby and bath water, wheat and chafe.

If the upcoming GSE hearings are fair, then the world should be shown not only what went wrong, but also the many, many things that Fannie and Freddie did right.

The Black and Hispanic caucuses, which heavily populate the House Banking Committee, should be particularly attentive to those facts, since they have firsthand knowledge of how fairly their constituents were and have been treated by the large commercial banks which presumably aspire to succeed Fannie and Freddie.

Maloni, 3-9-2010

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The D’s and the R’s!

Increasingly, I hold the Democrats responsible for many of Washington’s governing ills.

Yes the GOP has been negative, the party of “no,” filibuster users, and nasty, but that is what the political party "out of power” is supposed to do.

The Republcians don’t have a majority of congressional votes or possess the White House, so they obfuscate and play guerilla politics. So what!

I blame the Democrats because they do have the votes and control of Congress and the Administration, but have piddled away a year bloviating and doing very little else.
I blame the D congressional leadership for accommodating too many of the party’s interest groups over the party’s interests and priorities.

If I hear Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) threaten, one more time, to use “reconciliation,” I’ll wet myself. Use it Harry, don’t just threaten! Get something done and live with the political consequences—likely, quite positive--of passing a healthcare bill and whatever else you have.

Use reconciliation every time you need it, because you don’t have the 60 votes to defeat a GOP filibuster.

The Democrats control between 53 and 59 votes on most issues. Reid needs to make those votes work for policy purposes and stop walking around like a timid vegeterian lion. Roar and eat some red meat!

Use reconciliation, Harry, and stop worrying about lining up 60 votes. That allows you to ignore Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman, Evan Bayh and other D’s who are more trouble than they are worth are.

Plus, looking forward to congressional control after the 2012 elections--in the Senate and in the House--not every D seat up for grabs will go Red and not every Republican candidate will win, so—Harry and Nancy--build the best record you can, don’t diddle. You’ll just facilitate the demise of your party’s future control.

(Note: I previously had written another 1000 words—which was due to be in the second segment of this blog—discussing a way to help the Congress transition from the current mortgage finance system to the new one which will arise once Congress “abolishes” Fannie and Freddie. But, the Administration declaration that it wasn’t ready to deal with Fannie and Freddie probably kills the House effort to do anything in 2010, which already was a slim possibility, and certainly dims any ardor in the Senate, which has a basket of its own problems. So, I’ll save that mortgage system wisdom for another time.)

GOP Credibility

Thinking about the congressional Republicans and their antics makes me ask, where is their party credibility?

At least Barack Obama, as fumbling as his efforts have been, has tried to address what he perceives to be “national problems,” seeking what he believes are reasonable solutions. Too bad, that Democrats don’t control the Congress and can give President Obama some help! (Just teasing, a bit.)

But, face it, the GOP has zero credibility. It seems only to work hard for the large commercial banks, giant agribusinesses, Wall Street, insurance companies, big oil, and other monied interests.

The Republican Party--which laments the amount of federal spending and new bureaucracies, as well as government takeovers of business--has a poor track record in those regards. And, it’s there for all to see.

It only was 10 years ago when the Republicans—with their same slogans and ”principles” heard just last week at the nationally televised Obama Health Summit--took total control of Washington, with the Bush White House and majorities in both the House and Senate.

They ruled, definitively and totally, but produced an abysmal record of incompetence, greed, lying, indifferent federal regulation, and law breaking and that was before they got warmed up! Where is the GOP credibility?

They called themselves the heroes of deficit reduction. The Bush Administration wasted a budget surplus and supporrtd by a spend happy GOP Congress, pushed federal deficits to astronomical heights and with it federal work force numbers and government spending. Yet, they still complain, as recently as last week, about “federal bureaucracies.” Where is the GOP credibility?

Are we really better off with the GOP-created Department of Homeland Security and its monstrous budget, rather than the dozens of formerly independent federal agencies, which were subsumed by DHS?.

The R's rushed to war in Iraq on totally specious grounds—lying to one another, the Congress, the American people, and the world “about weapons of mass destruction”--spending untold billions and costing us the lives of more than 5000 US service men and women, who didn’t have to die. Several times that number came back from Iraq maimed and wounded. Yet, in hindsight, even an unruly Iraq—with Saddam Hussein at the head--would have been a better Iran buffer than anything which exists today. Where is the GOP credibility?

Yet, these are the indisputable records of the crew challenging virtually everything the Democrats try to do legislatively, claiming the GOP has a better way.

I understand the legislative game to say “no.” But, where is the GOP credibility?
Why should the Republican leaders ever be believed about any policy recommendations, the infrequent times they offer them?

John Boehner (R-Ohio), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), Dick Shelby (R-Ala), Michelle Bachman (R-Minn), John Corwyn (R-Tex), Jed Hensarling (R-Tex), Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Glenn Beck, Michelle Malkin, Michael Savage, and Rush Limbaugh are a few of the opposition leaders to Democrats.

These are people who would have us vote control of Congress in 2010, the White House in 2012, and our national lives to the GOP’s conservative Right?

Since last year, President Obama’s efforts at times have disappointed many who voted for him (including me). But I see nothing he has done that gives credibility or standing to any of these GOP officials or howling media hounds.

(Question for Democrats: Why is Ed DeMarco still holding his FHFA job?)

Maloni, 3-2-2010