Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ben Stein on Obama's Treasury Pick

Aside from his skewering of Geithner for not being proactive enough in using government force to stop the present economic meltdown, Ben Stein actually has a fairly interesting take on Obama's nomination for Treasury Secretary:
If it were scientifically possible to create a man who is the exact opposite of "change" in the political and financial realm, which is what I recall Senator Obama talking about during the campaign, it would be Mr. Geithner... ...In no sense does this make Mr. Geithner anything less than a fine man and possibly a superb steward at 15th and Pennsylvania N.W. But it does raise some interesting questions about just what kind of "change" Mr. Obama has in mind in the economic world... ...Not that this is a big surprise: There is a permanent ruling class in this country, whatever they call themselves, no matter how they talk about change. They may not be very good at it, but there they are. "Meet the new boss," as the Who said, "same as the old boss."
I've heard similar sentiments in other forums as well. It seems, actually, that based on many of his picks for cabinet level positions and high-level advisors, that Obama may turn out to be far different from the way he was characterized by conservative comentators, and indeed, even the way he characterized himself. One of his picks, Christina Romer, made a name for herself by disputing the conventional wisdom (indeed, modern economic dogma) that the "monetary management" of the Federal Reserve has helped ease business and economic cycles since World War II. Of course, on the flipside, she also claims that the best way to end recession is to reduce interest rates and expand the money supply, a big Austrian no-n0. He has also picked the likes of Paul Volcker, inflation hawk and former Chairman of the Federal Reserve under Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, Larry Summers, former Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton, and as Ben Stein mentions, Timothy Geithner, all very much "establishment" type folks. None of them are "right wingers" or even free-market types, but neither are they a bunch of "Che Guevara's," as Ben Stein puts it, either. This is all turning out to be, well, a very conventional, centrist democratic group of folks. Not what I would have picked or what I would want, but if we must have a Democratic administration, it really could look a lot worse from a conservative's point of view. I haven't seen any Dennis Kucinich or Pelosi types named. There is a good case to be made that Obama will not actually be able to do much but worry over the economy in his time in the White House, however long that turns out to be, and that even on this issue his hands will pretty much be tied, as the US has entered so many long-term commitments and is so entrenched in maintaining the status quo that to try anything radical risks upsetting the entire applecart. So it may very well not matter at all what initiatives Obama would like to pursue; he's stuck inheriting such a tremendous mess (thanks again GW!) that it may turn out to be a do-nothing, treadmill-type Presidency while the whole cotton-picking mess gets sorted out. In other words: politically, it could be an awful lot worse. But then again, economically, maybe it will be. Oh, and I can't forget to mention: what Ben Stein has stated is precisely why I don't get too involved in national politics. It's a waste of time. It doesn't matter who you vote for or who the president is, things turn out looking remarkably like they always have. In other words, change never has been and never will be a top-down affair. We're not going to see the error of our ways, elect a Hindu vegetarian and as a result become a nation of Yoga experts, drastically reducing death due to heart disease. Change comes from the bottom up. America will have a new president, but nothing about America itself has changed. So it shouldn't surprise us that even a fresh face brings almost nothing new to the table, and we just end up with the same-old-same-old. If Obama were "too different," he wouldn't have lasted five minutes. If you wanna change the world, start small. Start at home. You wanna change the world, you gotta start with the culture. That's the key. That's the beginning. Everything else follows. Don't think big. Think small.

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