President Barack Obama and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.
Still well short of the Obama administration's 100th day in office, substantive judgment would normally be premature at best, but these are extraordinary times. The raging inferno of corruption that began in the Bush years burns out of control now, and time is of the essence. Some would argue the corruption was always there, is always there, a flaw in the human spirit that is never gone, but for a time controlled. In either case, the fire is now raging and threatens to consume everything.
While the new, and very popular, President Barack Obama appears to mean well, Hillary Clinton's admonishment that he was unprepared for what lays ahead now seems more real than at first imagined.
Economics were central to the outcome of the November elections. More to the point, economic reform. Obama, a noteworthy beneficiary of that voter outrage, appears however to be deferring to the best judgment of his economic advisers. Foremost among them, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and Chairman of the National Economic Council Lawrence H. Summers. It's not clear exactly what Obama wants, but Geithner and Summers want to repair Wall Street, to resurrect the system that now cannibalizes the nation's economy, not reform it. Geithner and Summers like the Wall Street system, and they want you to like it, too. But even if you don't like it, they definitely want you pay for it. You are, and how.
What we're seeing here is a reinvestment in, not a divestment from, Reaganomics. The cost is staggering and the ramifications are long-term. In the opinion of Obama administration economists, the nation's, and for that matter the world's, financial structures revolve around Wall Street. Geithner and Summers appear to be determined to restore Wall Street, no matter what the cost. But what if restoring Wall Street doesn't fix the problem? What if Wall Street is the problem? Geithner and Summers have missed the most fundamental component in this equation; the American Worker does not depend on Wall Street; Wall Street depends on the American worker. Destroying the American worker to save the investment banker truly defeats the system.
Regulation is a critical missing element in any meaningful attempt to an economic reform. But regulation means nothing without law enforcement. Unless ultimately there is a jail cell waiting for those who break the law, then regulation is theater and nothing more. Law enforcement - in earnest - ceased to exist on a federal governmental level during the Bush years. Anyone who would, or even potentially could, bring a criminal action against Bush administration officials was removed or intimidated into silence. It was the era of lawlessness for America's elite, and for some of the nation's most powerful financiers it continues. For the better part of a decade, the message has been clear: "if you are powerful and connected you will never face meaningful prosecution". You are above the law.
The nation's top cop is Attorney General Eric Holder. While Holder is certainly qualified for the post, there is no indication at this admittedly early stage that he has any plans to bring criminal actions against the nation's rich and powerful, regardless of the evidence. And there is evidence aplenty. The silence from the Department of Justice is deafening, and the clock is ticking.
All of this stops at the water's edge, but our problems do not. Both of Mr. Bush's wars continue and President Obama will awake one day soon to find that they are his. Again, the president defers to the experts; in this case, the generals; again, the experts lead in a direction of their choosing, not in the direction mandated by the voters. If an occupation cannot be won, can two occupations at once be survived? Iraq simmers for the freedom we promised, and the rage now boils anew. In Afghanistan, the question of the day is: What's the difference between the Taliban and the Mujahideen? Answer: We are now the ones in the Afghan trap.
Deferring to the experts is a wonderful thing, a very democratic thing in fact, something George W. Bush refused to do, micromanaging everything to the end. We are, however, rapidly moving in the wrong direction. We need to bring the troops home, stop the epidemic of foreclosures, and put the wealthy crooks in jail beside the poor crooks. If the administration doesn't have the players in place to confront the problem, they need to go out and get better players.
The hour is late, and this isn't working.