Saturday, December 12, 2009

(and should have given in prime time months ago)

The speech Obama should give in prime time is a speech he gave today -- the nearly unversally ignored the weekly radio address.

This is from the transcript. Imagine this delivered in prime time to a large audience:

...even as we dig our way out of this deep hole, it's important that we address the irresponsibility and recklessness that got us into this mess in the first place.

... much of it was due to the irresponsibility of large financial institutions on Wall Street that gambled on risky loans and complex financial products, seeking short-term profits and big bonuses with little regard for long-term consequences. It was, as some have put it, risk management without the management. And their actions, in the absence of strong oversight, intensified the cycle of bubble-and-bust and led to a financial crisis that threatened to bring down the entire economy.

... That's why I've proposed a series of financial reforms that would target the abuses we have seen and leave us less exposed to the kind of breakdown we just experienced.

... They would give us the tools to ensure that the failure of one large bank or financial institution won't spread like a virus through the entire financial system. Because we should never again find ourselves in the position in which our only choices are bailing out banks or letting our economy collapse.

... Just last week, Republican leaders in the House summoned more than 100 key lobbyists for the financial industry to a "pep rally," and urged them to redouble their efforts to block meaningful financial reform. Not that they needed the encouragement. These industry lobbyists have already spent more than $300 million on lobbying the debate this year.

The special interests and their agents in Congress claim that reforms like the Consumer Financial Protection Agency will stifle consumer choice and that updated rules and oversight will frustrate innovation in the financial markets. But Americans don't choose to be victimized by mysterious fees, changing terms, and pages and pages of fine print....

Yeah, it would be nice of we actually get legislation that matches the toughness of this rhetoric -- which is unlikely.

But just imagine if the president and the Democrats were dead serious about this -- or, even better, had been dead serious about it during the first hundred days. Imagine this as one of the speeches of Obama's 60+%-approval period -- in prime time, delivered with all his rhetorical power, ID'ing the enemies and hanging that word "virus" around the necks of the fat-cats, painting them as toxic, and portraying financial reform as a public health measure to deal with an infestation.

I know how naive this all sounds, but for crissake, isn't there some point at which the popular appeal of such a message, and of real reform, would win you more votes than you'd lose by arousing the ire of deep-pocketed fat cats?

I think some part of Obama genuinely believes the words of this speech, believes in this rhetoric, even though the worse angels of his (and congressional Democrats') nature have inspired him (and them) to delay and dilute the legislation in question. We're paying for it as a nation -- but he and the congressional Dems are paying for it politically.

A serious push for this, and for more job creation, right away would have been good policy and good politics. It still would be. I agree with the idea Kevin K. floated yesterday* in a comment to this post: drop health care for now and focus on jobs. But I'd say (as I've said many times): focus on jobs and serious financial reform. Take their money, drink their liquor, and vote against 'em anyway -- you'll lose your jobs if you don't.

*(That's not exactly what Kevin said -- see his comment to this post.)

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