Thursday, October 09, 2008

Where is Bush?

Paulson and Bernanke are all over the news - that's no surprise. But where is President Bush?

I understand that a legitimate argument could be made that in a free market system it's not proper to look to the president to solve things. I'm a pretty free-market kind of guy myself, but I think this falls flat for at least three reasons:
  • His deputies are clearly improvising as fast an furuiously as they can, they certainly view it as their problem to solve.
  • He's the leader of the country - he should be showing leadership here. Either policy leadership if he feels it's his role (which he must, per Paulson/Bernanke's fast and furious actions), or else morale leadership a la FDR.
  • The lack of regulatory oversight with respect to mortgage lending standards and disclosure, investment bank leverage, accounting rules, etc., seems to me to be the single biggest factor leading to our current mess, and that regulation is the responsibility of the executive branch, which he runs. (Greed isn't the problem per se - runaway greed and competitive pressure to do stupid things is. But that's the subject for another post.) This was deliberate laxness on the part of the administration due to it's anti-regulatory bias. I understand not wanting burdensome regulation, but clearly there is a balance between two much and two little regulation, and it's pretty clear that for the past few years we've erred on the side of too little.
But no, he's been invisible. I can't see any grounds to give him any credit for any positive action here. Economies have cycles; I can't blame him for the fact that we're having a down cycle. But I think he deserves a lot of blame for allowing the conditions that allowed it to get this bad this fast.

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