Greetings fellow citizens or visitors to this year's Presidential Election.
During last election's run up, I wrote four articles detailing the economic plans proposed by each candidate along with who they surrounded themselves with on their advisory staff to the same effect. The reason for this is very simple; it is my belief that a president's economic policy is, without a doubt, the most important component of what a new (or incumbent) administration brings to the table. During that breakdown, my advice was to vote for no primary party candidate, or no confidence.
Unfortunately, I'm not reporting anything better this time.
Through the course of this writing, I will detail the names and credentials for all personnel housed in each candidate's camp. I will also highlight key legislation those individuals were involved in and how those actions either worked against or for the nation's overall economic health. I will included, for each, their economic school of thought and how that ties into the larger picture of what each candidate believes in, from the macro level. All in all, this should provide each of you information to assist in the voting process. Of course, don't take my word for it. I'll be sure to provide my sources throughout the article.
Barack Obama's Camp
President Obama, for this campaign bid, has surrounded himself with some new faces. I will say that for the most part, the message remains the same. I will not detail what that means until I introduce these players to you, the reader.
Gene Sperling - Mr. Sperling has a solid background filling the current role as Director of the National Economics Council. Before that he served as the deputy Director under Clinton. He's been involved in some pretty impressive legislation, namely the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, the 1993 Deficit Reduction Act and the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.
Notably, Sperling has come under recent attack for his involvement in the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act as it is, even by Obama's admission, a key player economic meltdown of 2007. The 1993 Deficit Reduction Act barely passed in the Senate and required the then Vice-President Al Gore to step in as a tie breaker. The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 is worth mentioning because of how it reduced payments for hospitals honoring Medicare and much of it has been repealed in subsequent legislation.
He also served as a counselor to Tim Geithner from 2009 to 2011, assisting with issues like fiscal policy, taxation, and small business job creation.
Now the down and dirty. Gene Sperling is the author of The Pro-Growth Progressive. In this book he claims to be a man in command of a vast wealth of experience and networks developed while in office under two presidents. He states that he is a defender for the "little guy" yet his history of legislative efforts are checkered at best. His policies of a top down, centrally planned economic schema live little to doubt that he is a liberal economist with a traditional take on Keynesian theory. The two things that concern me the most about his approach to economic policy is his involvement with repealing the Glass-Steagall Act and that he is the recipient of nearly $1 million dollars from Goldman-Sachs. I wouldn't say that he's rotten or broken, but he's very much a Washington insider, something he brags about in his book without offering much to counter the notion that he is an elitist, more than just a little detached from the working class that he purports to defend.
Keynesian Folly Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Help or Hurt Rating: Neutral
Alan Krueger - Without a doubt, for all intents a purposes Alan Krueger appears an altruistic breath of fresh air in any administration. His studies on the relationships between education and wages, criminal behavior and inequality deserve high praise. His partnerships with other Washington insiders such as Larry Summers, Ben Bernake and Tim Geithner raise speculation as to what lengths he'll go to see his ideas reach fruition.
More interesting is his associations with institutions such as CERGE-EI (short for the Center for Economic Research & Graduate Education), which has been likened to a socialist think-tank and is situated in Czechoslovakia. Just to frame this properly, I don't condemn or condone entities like this. We have numerous think-tanks here in the US that perform similar functions; I'm only pointing out that it is a bit awkward for a presidential adviser (which in military speak should have at least a top secret security clearance) to have ties with an agency funded by a foreign government.
Mr. Krueger is a Harvard alumni with an impressive set of credentials and awards. He is also practically a card carrying Keynesian economist. If you follow my column at all, I don't hold much faith in the works of John Keynes as it overlooks some key components of the economic model and makes pretty incredible claims regarding central planning that have yet to be proven in a long term scenario. I believe at the heart of his efforts, I honestly believe he means well. However, I don't know if the medicine he is prescribing is the cure for what ails us.
Keynesian Folly Rating: 9.0 out of 10
Help or Hurt Rating: Mostly Helpful
Timothy Geithner - Well, we were bound to hit trouble eventually. Tim Geithner is the acting Secretary of the Treasury and is a total and complete crook. Just from memory, some of the highlights of the economic meltdown have him smack dab in the center of the mess. From the illegal transactions that ended in the collapse of Bear Stearns (he was a key player as the head of the New York Federal Reserve) to similar activity overlooking the implosion of Lehman Brothers, Mr. Geithner is a younger, hairier version of Henry "the snake" Paulson. He was put under enormous scrutiny early in his career as the head the US Treasury because his loyalties always appeared to be in line with Wall Street rather than Main Street. While he managed to basically prove that he has few ties to the larger investment houses he has never shook the negative connotation; he is a mole for the financial elites of this country. His past performances, which are many, should be indicative of future expectation.
Geithner is a double edged sword while serving our country, in any capacity. While he undoubtedly wields considerable experience in managing finances, and has unique perspective regarding macro economic policy one must always temper that with not knowing exactly who he's working for. Much like Bernake, he was appointed by the president but seems to do whatever the hell he wants with little oversight. I highly doubt much has changed in this man's head in the time he has been put to full public service.
If you need a rap sheet to satisfy your curiosity, behold:
TARP Nonsense: He is in charge of handing out the remaining $350 Billion from the 2008 bank relief fund, and is also proposing lending out an additional $1 TRILLION (with a capital T folks) in order to keep things moving along. He also oversaw the highly controversial and probably illegal lending of $2 Trillion that was done outside of congressional oversight.
AIG Bonuses: AIG received $170 Million in federal aid, then gave it's executives some very nice end of year pat on the backs for the good work they'd done. Mr. Geithner concluded they had this all arranged before they received federal funding.
AIG Bank Payments: AIG received $62 Billion in federal funding in order to offset losses against derivatives on their balance sheet. They paid the counterparties to these derivatives full market value when the actual value was much lower. Tim Geithner oversaw and approved of these activities which were basically fleecing of you, the taxpayer, for the benefit of the already ridiculously corrupt & wealthy.
These are but a few. Tim Geithner is and was part of the problem.
Keynesian Folly Rating: Corporate Fascist
Help or Hurt Rating: The Devil Himself
Jacob Lew - Another Wall Street insider and revolving door user between the private and public sectors. Mr. Lew served under Clinton as the head of OMB and again for Obama. He also worked as chief operating officer for Citi and a few hedge funds during the glory casino years (read: lead up to the financial meltdown) and actually did quite well betting on the housing market collapse (source).
It's also worth mentioning that Lew received nearly $2 Million (in two separate installments) from Citi just before being sworn in as director of the OMB under Obama as a "bonus" for his work there (source). In the same vein, Jack Lew also was quoted in saying that deregulation wasn't at the heart of the financial implosion, something made all the more interesting as he was director of the OMB when the aforementioned Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act was put into law. As head of the OMB, it was Lew's job to ensure that Federal regulations are in line with the President's overall vision. In other words, to think that Jacob Lew didn't have a hand in the crafting or deployment of that legislation is missing a whole lot of how government works.
Simply put, Jacob Lew believes in the folly that led us to the precipice of economic collapse, and he's feeding the ear of the president.
Keynesian Folly Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Help or Hurt Rating: The Devil's Little Helper
Conclusion on the Left: Obama has some genuine people guiding him that have what appears to be honest, altruistic motivation. Albeit, they are using wealth redistribution to support those motivations; I will admit it is hard to come down on them for wanting the overall health of our nation to improve. However, Obama has also enlisted help from people that represent the worst in what made the economic catastrophe of only a few years ago. Tim Geithner and Jacob Lew are not friends of this republic and the fact that Obama has allowed them to persist in the capacity they have raises concerns that he is not the bastion of freedom and change but yet another corporate mouthpiece for entities like Goldman Sachs and Citi. Granted, war does not seem to be a driver for this administration as it was for the last make no mistake, the general impression that I am left with is that Obama traded in a few of his far left leaning advisers for corporate henchmen.
I do not see this an improvement over the stance he took in his last bid for the presidency. If anything, with corporate America having more influence in this administration is indicative of a move towards something that might appear more in line with neoconservatism (which I should point out is nothing more than hawkish socialism). If you intend to cast a vote for Obama, keep that in mind.
Stay tuned for part 2, when I look at Romney and Co.!