In “Sideways,” the surprise hit movie of several years ago, one of the female leads explains to her nerdy, and obviously smitten, dinner companion, her fondness for wine.
In a breathy sermon she tells him that wine is actually alive, and subsequently, it continually evolves and gains complexity. Without pausing, she tacks on an unforgettable reminder of her passion for the grape in that it also “tastes so (expletive) good!”
It would be far too easy to link that alcohol-inspired vignette with President Bush’s impromptu, albeit sophomoric analysis of Wall Street’s woes, in that it “got drunk and now it’s got a hangover.”
But I’ll do it anyway.
The president, as incredible as it seems given his past head-scratching statements on the economy, is our only chief executive imbued with an MBA. He also wondered how long it would take The Street “to sober up” and not “try to do all these fancy instruments.”
The short, wry answer is Wall Street will more than likely take an abbreviated vow of temperance. That is of course until it finds someone who is willing to spring for another round.
For too long under the current White House administration – and to be fair, those that preceded this one — there was always someone willing to keep the glasses full and an eager group willing to keep drinking.
Whether it consisted of concerted efforts to water down regulation (read: those “fancy instruments”) and disclosure, or unnecessarily slash interest rates, there have been more than enough enablers to keep the tab going.
And in the interest of space and time I won’t even probe in much detail the cadre of sleeping night watchmen that allowed mortgage securities giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to operate unencumbered to the brink of collapse.
Last week, as part of the larger housing bill, the Bush administration spliced together a rescue plan for both that temporarily boosts the Treasury’s line of credit to Fannie and Freddie from $2.25 billion to an unlimited amount. It would also allow more stringent regulation for both as well as the 12 Federal Home Loan Banks.
Action that was sorely needed for many years but unfortunately, never taken.
Label me a cynic but any real reform will have to come in the next administration, as rarely have a president’s last few months in office resulted in anything meaningful in that regard.
But after hearing our presumptive presidential contenders opine on the economy and what they’d do to help right the ship, I feel like bellying up to the bar myself.
Depending of course on whether someone else is buying.
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