After writing my post yesterday, I thought of a simpler way to put things:
Until this crisis passes, can we, as a nation, please just agree that Congress, the President and the Treasury Secretary are too busy to waste their time on any problem worth less than, say, $10 billion?
I wanted to put the cutoff at $100 billion, but I do think it's appropriate for those folks to deal with the bailouts of Citi and Bank of America, which are not that high.
But, clearly, with any problem less than $10 billion, the President, members of Congress, and Geithner could say something like this:
"That sounds awful. I really wish I could look into that. But our nation and the world is on the brink of severe disaster. We can get through this, but only if leadership stays focused. So, I've assigned some low level staffers to this relatively minor, if frustrating, issue. I am going to spend all of my time trying to save the world economy. When I have a spare minute, I'm going to focus on recrafting the regulation of financial markets. I promise that one day, a year from now, two years from now, when the fire is safely put out, we will have a full accounting of who did what, who is guilty, and who needs to be punished. Until then, every minute I spend on small things brings the world closer to disaster."
Eventually, it'll get easy. They just say: "Oooh, that's below the cutoff. Sorry."
I do see the flaw in my proposal. We don't see the evidence of them working hard and effectively on the big problems. We don't see bold, visionary action. We see confused, vague, muddling by. So, I'm guessing, the American people will not believe that they are putting aside our outrage to focus on bigger, more important things.
This may be a communication thing. I know, for sure, there are countless staffers in the White House, Treasury, Fed, and Congress working absurdly hard. But, somehow, I don't think we are convinced that they fundamentally have a handle on the crisis. So, it doesn't seem like effective work. Maybe it is. I hope it is. But until we know it is, we're not giving anybody the benefit of the doubt. Not this far into the crisis.
OK, so I think I'm up to proposal number 3:
- First, actually do some serious work that shows the American people that you are on top of this crisis in a bold, forward looking way. AND effectively communicate what you are doing and why. (And if part of saving the world means giving money to undeserving rich people and rich banks, tell us that straight up, don't hide it behind complex deals that take months to understand, be straightforward, tell us that you know it sucks, you wish you didn't have to give our money to rich people, but you can't come up with any other way.)
- Second, tell us that you can't waste your time on any problem less than $10 billion.
- Third, fix the world economy.
- Fourth, go after the bastards.