I was going to begin this column with a wry joke about the current banking and financial crisis, something on the order that if you have Lehman, you've got to make Lehman-aid.
Instead, I'll turn my attention to the presidential race, since this will be the last issue in which I'll be able to vent about how bizarrely Darwinian it is that voters have to select either Barack Obama or John McCain as the 44th occupant of the Oval Office.
With a crisis basically reshaping our financial landscape, I find little comfort in either's affinity for numbers. One can't exactly remember how many homes he owns, while the other insists that's he's campaigned in all 57 states.
With the election roughly two weeks away, both candidates have been trumpeting the fact that Wall's Street's malaise has unfortunately become the average citizen's burden. Both candidates elbowed their way to the nearest microphones as far back as March following the collapse of Bear Stearns and crowed about the need for regulatory overhaul.
But only six months ago, the financial crisis was perceived more as Wall Street's problem than Main Street's. That is, until the takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac broadsided homeowners. Both sides of the aisle have promised more regulation of financial institutions and more transparency for investors, all of which sounds comforting - on paper at least, or on MSNBC.
Unfortunately for voters, both McCain and Obama are venturing into virtually uncharted waters without sound navigation.
McCain's mantra has been his claim of helping mop up the excesses so prevalent in the Beltway. At a recent campaign stop in Florida, the GOP candidate promised to "stop running Wall Street like a casino," and reiterated his cry for a streamlined regulatory system, calling for an end to the current alphabet soup of agencies but promising he wouldn't use taxpayer dollars to solve the problem. But, as we've come to expect from both candidates, he offered little or nothing in the way of specifics.
Obama, meanwhile, made a point of singling out the concerted march under the Bush administration toward deregulation, and claims that while he doesn't fault his opponent for the current mess, he does fault the economic policies that "he subscribes to." He may have a point, but it's unfair to single out the administration, as the questionable effectiveness of the Securities and Exchange Commission spans far more administrations that W's. As some have pointed out, it's hard to regulate folks earning $10 million a year with people earning $85,000 a year.
But the plain and sometimes frightening truth is that neither McCain nor Obama, nor their vice presidential nominees, have much experience with a crisis of this scope. To be fair, few do.
Regardless of who wins on November 4, the current turmoil will surely accomplish one thing. That is the inevitable siphoning of time, money and resources from what had been two marquee issues of the 2008 race - health care and tax reform.
It will also, perhaps, determine the winner's legacy.
Register or login for access to this item and much more
All Accounting Today content is archived after seven days.
Community members receive:
- All recent and archived articles
- Conference offers and updates
- A full menu of enewsletter options
- Web seminars, white papers, ebooks
Already have an account? Log In
Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access