If we are to get out of the mess that deregulation of the financial industry has got us into, we need to compromise. All sides need to admit that none is going to get everything. Here's what I propose:
To the banks: Agree to the re-enactment of the Glass-Steagall Act. Banks will go back to being banks. Investment-banking (not at all the same thing), insurance, commodity trading and all the other non-banking businesses that banks have entered will be spun off--not to separate divisions (even if independently capitalized), but to separate companies. Banks that have more than a certain percentage of total banking capital will be broken up until no bank has more than a specified maximum that insures that no bank failure will endanger the system. (I'm quick to note that I do not know what that percentage should be. 1/2 of 1%? 1%? 2%? 5%? The latter seems too large to me, but perhaps a consensus of reputable economists would agree that it is not.)
And in return, we agree to amnesty: We won't put the bankers in jail for the criminal conduct that got us in so much trouble in 2008 and the following years.
The media's propensity to hear what it wants to hear never ceases to amaze. Take Mitt Rmoney's speech at Liberty University today. As you have probably heard, Rmoney said, "Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman."
Virtually every media outlet took this remark as meant to differentiate Rmoney's position from President Obama's expression of support for same-sex marriage this week. ("Virtually" means every outlet I have seen or heard of, but leaves wiggle room in case some radio station in Sitka took a different view.)
But look at the words. What was Mitt doing? Clearly, he was assuring conservative Christians that he--along with all other mainstream Mormons--espouses monogamy. But you won't see any mention of that, except here.
Yesterday, I suggested that we should give Mitt Rmoney a pass on his teen-age bullying. Maybe I was too hasty. For one thing, when I wrote that post, I did not realize that he was 18--which is a lot different that 14, 15 or even 16--when the incident occurred. Then, there are a some posts on other sites that make a good case for taking what Mitt did back then as a relevant indicator of his fitness to be President.
As regular readers know, this page has no love for Mitt Rmoney, a man who embodies many of the most repellent characteristics of politicians who practice in democracies. And we have suggested that Mitt's experience with Seamus (the family Irish setter) on a famous trip to Canada reveals relevant details about the candidate's character. (Indeed, your editor had a letter to the editor on that very subject published in the NY Times). But today's Washington Post goes too far, with a story detailing the Mittster's reported antics as a prep school student almost fifty years ago.
C'mon folks. While the behavior recounted was crude and cruel in an adolescent way, can't we agree that what happened so long ago-- at least short of a felony--is out of bounds? Who of us would want our high school years dredged up to darken our doors today? And who of us deserves such treatment?
(I realize that some may say that by concentrating on Rmoney's treatment of the family dog, I am engaging in the same kind of unfair assault. I think that what a man does in his 30's is significantly different from teenage foolishness that a different standard should apply. You are entitled to differ.)
President Obama showed real courage in coming out in favor of same-sex marriage in an election year. There are those who have said that the President's hand was forced by Joe Biden's declaration that he is comfortable with same-sex marriage. And those who say that the President should have spoken up sooner. Even those, like the Log Cabin Rebuplicans who fault the President for speaking up the day after the voters of North Carolina passed a constitutional amendment to make sure that such marriages are impossible in that state. (Proving that even a gay Rebuplican is still a Rebuplican.)
Don't believe it. The fact is that the President's position will cost him votes. It will cost him among groups that supported him heavily in 2008--blacks, Hispanics, even Orthodox Jews. Some of those voters are in swing states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. Mr. Obama's declaration will not help him in the aforesaid North Carolina, either, which he won last time by only 14,000 votes.
True, had Mr. Obama maintained his former Delphic position, he would have looked awkward. Increasingly so. But he could have lived with that.
Political courage is rare at any time. And especially so less than six months before an election.
Let's be clear: this writer still believes that the stories about how tight the race is owe more to the press' need to write something than to reality, and that in the end the results will not be close. But it will be closer than it looked before the President made his declaration.
Yesterday, I was in Salem, Massachusetts, working on my boat. Needing to use the restroom on my way back from lunch, I went into the public facilities at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site (a title that takes almost as long to write as it does to see what's on display). Not the most elegant bathroom I've ever been in, but clean and it worked. Just as I expected.
When you go into a federal facility you know that it will work. It will be clean. More than you'd expect from a state or local government facility in many areas. That's the point: While there are exceptions, for the most part the federal government is more efficient, more effective and more reliable than most state or local governments. Or many corporations, for that matter. (Had to use a bathroom in a gas station, store or restaurant lately?)
There's a lesson here. Think about Obamacare vs. private health insurance. Or Social Security vs. a private 401(k).