I confess. I had a 15 minute fling with Barack Obama at presidential primary time. When cringing at the memory, I remind myself that when I voted O the only real alternative for folks registered D was Return Of The Clintons. Oh nooo Mrs. Bill! That real estate is so yesterday. (Speaking of Whitewater, you gotta credit Hillary for being "housing bubble' before housing bubble was blip.)
But back to Barack. He of the power grab called health care reform. Yup, I pulled the primary lever for him. Though I take comfort in not doing likewise in the general election (by then I'd returned to Mister Third Party), the memory of going O, if only for a few mad moments, humbles me. Whenever I start feeling smarty-pants, a little voice says, "Hey, remember how you bought that crock of Obama?" When I was a kid I thought canned ravioli would taste like it looked on the label. Fool me once...
After the primaries, I paid more attention to Obama's ingredients. So much Reverend Wright, so little memory of his whack. And didn't Bill Ayers and the Weatherblather have a well-documented history of causing radical blindness in sheep? Who could believe O didn't know? Then there was the freshness factor. To me, fresh is everything; corruption is rotting our core. Was O as fresh as his label proclaimed?
As a grad of some deeply spoiled places, including Hudson County, New Jersey, and Albany, New York, I've observed that pit pols come in three varieties. First, the wildly corrupt and utterly shameless. Big ambition: being top flop in some regional cesspool. Second, canny careerists who avert their eyes from the cesspool, lip-servicing reform as they climb. Third, genuine kick ass corruption busters. Their numbers are few. Successful ones catch a wave of public sentiment. Obama's record in the Cook County cesspool didn't qualify him as a buster. But he wasn't wildly corrupt either. Just a look-away Joe aka O. Talking a good one, packing a passel of Chicago players. How non-fresh is that?
While my picture of Obama was sharpening, Dubya was rolling out housing bubble bailouts. No surprise. The minute the bubble started hissing "twas plain our reps would go to the wall/our wallets to save the United States of Real Estate. The Bush administration and relevant figures in Congress were tailoring the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, along with HUD's sub, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) as rescue machines (a policy President Obama continues to expand). The irony? Institutions with the stated mission of facilitating affordable housing would be buoying inflated real estate prices. Though this is an old joke (see decades of U.S. housing policy) it still cracks me up.
So-- no shock that taxpayers, including people who rented, or bought within their means, or never speculated or treated their homes like ATMs, would be covering the big bad real estate tab. What did shock me was that taxpayers would also be covering blowback on Wall Street from mortgage-derived investment instruments, much of it so far derived from actual assets as to be air securities. When President Bush and then Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson unveiled the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in early autumn 2008, the public hit the ceiling.
Though TARP was commonly called "bailout" its advocates preferred to call it a taxpayer investment. (While the word "investment" suggests an act of choice, this never stops public officials from combining it with "taxpayer.") Any lingering thought I had of voting for Obama disappeared with his quick support for TARP. (McCain coyly hinted he'd nix, then folded like a cheap maverick.) Oh sure, O was pained. But behind his tut-tut over the unfortunate necessity of TARP, one sensed eagerness coiled like a spring. An enormous government expansion was being rolled out before him like a red carpet. By a Republican administration no less! Walk right in, sit right down, baby let the edicts rain down.
After taking office President Obama continued to employ the emergency-measure rhetoric that greased TARP. His apps were quite creative. Such as linking his massively expensive health care initiative to fixing the financial crisis rooted in an entirely different section of the economy - logic oddly reminiscent of President Bush citing the 9/11 attack as reason for declaring war on a country that had nothing to do with it.