American Elephants

“The question that flummoxed the great orator” by The Elephant's Child
April 4, 2009, 2:59 pm
Filed under: Foreign Policy, United Kingdom | Tags: , ,

If you need a good weekend chuckle, John Crace of The Guardian has a comment on the Obama visit to Britain, when  the BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson asked the One a question.

Pitchforks, Mr. President? by The Elephant's Child
April 4, 2009, 2:30 am
Filed under: Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Freedom, Politics | Tags: , , ,

President Barack Obama and his team met with the CEOs of the major American Banks recently in the White House.  As that meeting was taking place, Obama’s auto bailout team was meeting with GM’s CEO Rick Wagoner down the hall. The CEOs of Freddie Mac, Northern Trust, J.P. Morgan Chase, Bankers Trust and Bank of America were among those present.  They met briefly with the press as they left the meeting. Politico has a video of their statement here, which contrasts interestingly with the “rest of the story.”

Politico obtained more details of the meeting, confirmed by several sources. The meeting was designed to be austerely businesslike.  A glass of water was at each place around the long mahogany table, no ice.  The CEOs of the world’s most powerful financial institutions tried to explain the complications of their business to the president of the United States, and the necessity for competing for talent on an international market.

The president was in no mood to hear them out.  He stopped the conversation, and according to Politico, said” “Be careful how you make those statements, gentlemen, The Public isn’t buying that.”

“My administration,” the president added, “is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”

This is an outrageous statement from a president who has been attempting to rouse public ire, and has sent his ACORN associates to scout out AIG executive homes, attempting to divert attention from the government’s responsibility for the economic crisis onto Wall Street and America’s financial institutions.  His takeover of American business continues apace.  You never want to let a crisis go to waste.

The executives said that economic recovery plans were already working, and told the president that they were anxious to repay TARP funds as soon as possible, and that they didn’t need it anymore.  They said that returning the funds would provide confidence to the market.

Obama was having none of that. He argued that returning funds too early would send “a bad signal.” He was clearly more interested in getting control of executive pay and benefits.  He urged pay reform and said rewards must be proportional, balanced, and tied to the health and success of the company.  Isn’t it remarkable that Democrats are so adamantly opposed to merit pay for teachers, where it would really benefit kids; and equally insistent that it is just the thing for executives of “capitalist enterprises.”

I find the attempt to stir up hate towards bank executives simply because they are highly paid, despicable.  Barney Frank has also been loudly anxious to get control of executive salaries.  I suppose that when you find that executives of the capitalist enterprises that you hate make a lot more money than the president does, it is more than a little annoying.  Economist Alan Reynolds has an excellent article on executive compensation here, and a measured discussion of bailouts here.  Both articles are short, and worth your time.

The attempt to demonize a few CEOs is populist politics, and unreasonable politics at that.  What really grates is Barney Frank posturing and demanding control of their remuneration, as if he was simply an innocent bystander. The president’s actions are more troubling.  He told us he was going to redistribute wealth.  We should have listened more closely.

This is not change, it is simply surreal.

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