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Obama's Private Economic Conundrum

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Having effectively been elected by a population believing in his redistribution of wealth promises, Obama has leaped into the fray of a game in which he has no experience. He arrived with an ideology, and seems to have learned little about the recession facing the Nation. Still he charges ahead. Along with millions of fawning supporters, Wall Street is quietly cheering and encouraging the moves of a neophyte CEO. You would too, if you controlled the game.

Many pundits and most of the mainstream media have intellectualized a rationality for the President's actions with an unconvincing, "he's a smart guy, he knows what he's doing" or the very successful assignation, "the mess is Bush's fault." Others who once supported him now have stepped back a little with an abundance of "time will tell, give him some time," brace-yourself sentiments. The American voters re-elected Bush to a rare second term, so this blames the voters, but more critically it is a disingenuous condemnation.

The anti-capitalism wave that swept the nation and elected Obama was a reaction to the financial sector's abuse of influence and power. Within the reach of a compliant and not so watchful Congress, some players took absurd risks across the banking spectrum, breaking all rules of reasonable lending practices and leveraging. As Obama continues the out of control bailout of the financial services industry program Bush started, the problem America has faced for the past decade and continues to be saddled with, is the dearth of knowledge on the part of its President pertaining to its most critical challenge.

Any CEO who is perplexed when facing a balance sheet is incapable of effectively managing a large corporation, particularly one passing through a very turbulent and economically treacherous period. In such times, having in place an independent and objective Board of Directors is imperative, even if the CEO is aware. In the President's case, Congress is expected to act as a balanced and diligent chamber, not an anesthetized rubber-stamping convocation. Both Republican and Democrats in Congress can take blame for having succumbed to the seduction of money, which led them to ignore the bubbles (housing and financial) that have imploded with worldwide ramifications. Congressionally mandated liberal (read: Standardless) mortgage qualifications, coupled with Greenspan's loose money policies were the fuel that energized the bubbles. Bush was not responsible for the financial meltdown, and neither is Obama, although both can be accused of complacency. However, ...

When the markets caved, Bush was in over his head facing challenges he did not understand, and he handed the hot potato to Paulson. Apparently Bush believed that a fox is the only one who has experience with chickens, and is therefore their inevitable overseer. It was evident that Bush had already vacated the White House premises mentally, and was running south for cover, hoping Obama would take over the reins even before his time. In came Obama, with no more intimate knowledge, perhaps less, of the economic landscape and Wall Street than his predecessor. What did he do? Installed Paulson's buddy and protégé of sorts to continue the good work of bailing out the financial community. Unfortunately for the taxpayers, Obama will continue to do whatever he is told to do.

At least Bush didn't pretend he knew what he was doing. Obama's ego on the other hand refuses to allow for such leak of doubt even in his private moments with the mirror. He is confident, and believes that he is intelligent, but the arrogance is leading him, and the Nation, overzealously into trouble. Problem is, the nation will pay for his ego and his lack of analysis or interest in educating himself.

As I've suggested previously he should shut the door of the Oval Office for a month, stay off Air Force One, and get a concentrated dose of education on the biggest challenges. He won't. If America's financial house is in order, every other challenge facing the country will be more easily remedied. It deserves his attention and intimate understanding of subtleties. A few phone calls will roundup all the teaching talent he can use. The objective is not to transform him into an economist. That would be just as disastrous. The goal it to get the CEO to become aware of what he doesn't know, and get a grasp on some right questions to ask those that he has delegated authority to.

The U.S. Treasury and The Fed deserve his attention though they don't want it. Who wants meddling when you've got yourself a key to the vault? They are happy to work with someone who doesn't know enough to probe effectively with relevant examinations. They have been content for over a generation with residents of the White House who did not know what they didn't know. Their jobs were made so much easier. Clinton might be the only President in recent memory who might have come close to being analytical and inquisitive. Have we so soon forgotten Allan Greenspan's endless tenure and obscure meanderings who propelled the money markets over the edge? Why has Geithner's failed role at the New York Fed garnered him ultimate power in the new Administration? Simple. His boss doesn't know any different.
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The occasionally heard rationalization, "we need those who brought us this mess to help clean it up," is actually touted as if it made sense. ... Not to American taxpayers, it doesn't. With the bobbing head of the President, those who manipulated the fashioning of the worldwide recession are now tapping into the taxpayer pockets with schemes that will eventually surface, but to no avail. There will be no repercussions because there is no elected official who knows enough to dig, or has competence enough to conduct even superfluous due diligence.

When, for example, will taxpayers ever be apprized of the realities that will have allowed banks to market packaged toxic assets to funds, with the taxpayers, through the deft fingers of Geithner, guaranteeing the losses? ... The funds being pools of capital formed in partnership with Treasury where the taxpayer is fifty percent partner. Yes, you, the taxpayer will be a 50/50 partner, and that's not good news because you are also the backstop on any losses incurred. Losses will represent much of the packages because we're talking about mortgage loans that have been under water for some time and worse, these wondrous financial baskets include miasmal securities that were created by the geniuses running these now thrashed financial institutions. The outside independent fund "partners" have you to thank for their lack of risk. Don't hold your breath waiting for transparency from Geithner. Geithner's buddies will continue to be bailed, make billions, replenish their coffers, and taxpayers won't know the hows, whens or whats. Ever. If you think you have a few bucks to invest, and want to get in on this action, good luck.

The big lie was that such radical measures were necessary if big lenders were ever going to lend again. Think about the absurdity of that statement. Your corner lemonade stand entrepreneur knows better than that. Oh, and the other sensible reason was that these giants of the financial world required their lost capital replenished. So, in go the taxpayers, threatened and squeezed into recapitalizing incompetent banks by overpaying for assets, ... well, not assets so much as worthless toxic waste.

Thousands of banks across the country with solid financial statements could easily have been provided government backing to loosen some cash for loans, with deals and conditions pre-negotiated, etc., etc., etc., we could go on and on. The Geithners around him, by the way, could care less what Obama does with headaches like GM, Chrysler etc., so he plays pretend capitalist flexing his newfound CEO muscles, guided by an irresistible ideological need to change the rules of capitalism, another game far beyond his capacities and experience. He now seems to be an expert in the desires of the American public, which is apparently clamoring for electric automobiles, but is evidently doing it very silently.

The Administration's bungling of the GM restructuring completely extinguished any possibilities of renegotiating the repressive union contracts that weighed heavily in the collapse of the auto industry. Obama's support of unions, and his indulgence of their quid pro quo expectations will have detrimental effect on the taxpayer investment in GM. Obama is adding a whole new level of risk to investments – political risk. With GM and Chrysler as examples of overzealous government intrusion, and being very indicative of the overall climate in Washington, unionized companies and those encumbered with legacy liabilities, can expect to encounter serious difficulties raising capital in the foreseeable future. Unions have an important role to play in the economy, however, overstepping bounds of reason is detrimental to the "host." The free market system needs oversight, however, Obama is taking the concept of oversight a little too personally, and his insinuation of government into the free market system is exceeding all constitutional expectations.
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Meanwhile middle America awaits a positive outcome from its new President's policies. It holds fervent hope that things will work out, and his wealth redistribution will magically trickle down to better jobs and higher incomes.

The money game and Wall Street are influenced by major players who never write tell-all books. There is no conspiracy, but there IS a game. Even Geithners are pawns in the game, but they play just the same. The vast independent pools of capital circling the globe, are directed by astute, quiet, effective and ruthless administrators. If you influenced the management of $500 billion and more, would you leave the investments to the vagaries and whims of markets? Would you risk the capital? Absolutely not. You would influence, and manage as much of the game as possible to achieve your objectives. You would do what you have to do to preserve capital first, and maximize returns second, to whatever extent possible, as would any mid sized, or small fund, or even minor investor.

As for Bushes and Obamas? They don't know there is a game. Ideology is blinding, and with arrogance stirred in, the clustered aggregate, marketed and sold with masterful dexterity, will be detrimental to a whole nation's economic well-being.

 

Meanderings through senior executive offices in the corporate worlds of high tech and venture capital, have provided fodder for an inquisitive pen and foraging mind. James Raider writes: http://pacificgatepost.blogspot.com/

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