Wednesday Morning Quarterback: Bookends

September 30, 2008

By David Evans.

The 29th and 11th of last month (September) are the charybdis and the scylla,… no wait… the omega and the alpha,… no wait… make that the time we noticed we didn’t need this administration’s guidance and the time when we found that going faster in bigger circles left us in pretty much the same place. The two dates will bookend the first part of the grade school history of the twenty-first century.

There is an SEC proposal to help the meltdown. They say that factors other than market worth can be used to value assets. This applies only to quadruple entry accounting systems, but three or four no votes on Monday’s bailout were probably related to mark-to-market rules. This may seem trivial but a switch of only twelve votes on the EESA (Wall Street and financial corporations welfare without a five-year limit or work requirements bill) could be consequential.

Some believe we should guarantee depositor accounts for 250,000 dollars. The 70’s move from 40 K to 100 K helped bring about the S & L chicanery of the eighties. So perhaps the lesser parties candidates could distinguish themselves by proposing that the 100 K guarantee go to 80 K. This way, if you want the higher rate of a jumbo CD, you are insured for eighty percent of your principal. You could call it a mark-to-market proposal. As things stand, what incentive did Washington Mutual depositors have to pull their money out of that house of cards? What was the percentage rate of the perverse incentive? Is there a branch of microeconomics called moral hazard? Can we bookend both proposals as the pragmatic and disastrous opening gambits? How much did the CEO buyouts on the takeovers cost? Secretary Paulson, with all due respect, could begin by prohibiting any past, present, or future Wall Street executive from taking a cabinet position. Or would this be interfering with free market-rigging, crony capitalism, and the revolving door Robert Rubin, Roger Altman, and others have walked through? Next we will have generals at Foggy Bottom and defense contractors fattening up on long-term contracts approved by their former-Pentagon executives. Thank you for the diplomatic initiative, Secdef Gates. True reformers are America’s unsung heroes.

Early voting with same-day registration is underway in Ohio as of Tuesday. Of all the bellwether states, Ohio has given us the most presidents. After that upstart Florida reared its ugly head, Ohio was quick to regain its crown. The same-day part is new, but it is the mechanism that elected Jesse Ventura in Minnesota. The early voting part is going on in eight states. Colorado voters should vote on October seventh, it will take a while.

Wilder and wilder Virginia will be an interesting test. One of the eleven breakaway states, the old dominion has two former governors running hard for a Senate seat. Like Mexico, Virginia’s chief executive cannot be re-elected. Governor Warner should veto Governor Gilmore in this one. Governor Allen will not be much of a factor as he is now teaching slang. The present Governor may be less of a factor than future Governor Jim Webb, now cooling his heels as a United States Senator. Virginia has given us the best known governors.

Al Franken is closing ground on Norm Coleman in Minnesota but there is a lot of ground to make up. He should ask Lorne to get Danny to make an appearance, right after Chevy’s cameo. Dennis may not do the news so Eddie can do a cameo. Bill and Mike have hit the big time so maybe Adam can do a cameo. On the other hand, Norm Coleman lost to Jesse Ventura, then won narrowly against the collective memory of Fritz Mondale and Paul Wellstone. Same-day registration redux.

Joe Biden debates Bullwinkle Thursday evening. Joe is preparing in Delaware. The moose is in the squirrel’s state, getting debate tips from the ’88 nominee. I’m glad Bruce Babbitt is staying out of this one, but I’m sorry Mo Udall isn’t here to see it. We could have quite a laugh. Arizona passed a law in 1952 requiring the senior member of the opposition party to run for president every twelve years. Jon Kyl could be up in 2012, as things now look. Kyl and John Cornyn are immigration bookends. They want less at a greater profit. It is a curious stance for those who purport to represent border states. It is clear we should build a fence around Peter King’s congressional district, but when ideology trumps pragmatism on the border, these two have to go.

Arizona also has some initiative decisions, but the Grand Canyon state could send a majority Democratic delegation for the first time since Bob Stump changed parties in the late 70’s. The late great Barry Goldwater would advise “neither moose nor squirrel.” Talk about changing with the times, even ASU has installed solar panels. Now if they would just plug de-humidifiers into them.

Continental Illinois and Lincoln Thrift both had the protection of influence for too long, so It is likely the meltdown will favor neither candidate in Thursday’s slurring match. Both Arizona and New Mexico will elect candidates for their statehood centennial. Little remembered is the curious truth that Barry Goldwater was born in the Territory of Arizona. John S & L McCain opened a Tucson office last week. If all goes as expected, he should make it to Fort Huachuca in mid-November for the annual vigil.

McCain was a Biden staffer in 1974, so one set of Thursday observations will be accurate. Wasilly will have to get in line to see Obama, just like the rest of us. That frosty humor provides comic relief, but so did Agnew’s.

Bierce said of Hearst, “publishers drink wine from the skulls of writers.” Less famously, my publisher gave me five weeks notice and the usual severance package today. He said I should stick to what I know. In five weeks, I will tell you what I said. I may go to cooler pastures for a little while, just to get the lay of the land or watch the mass ascension. If you would like to offer an opinion, please register and vote, this week if possible. This means you, state with a red name.

Tuesday is another presidential debate. We will know something about the trillion-dollar meltdown suppression package by then. The world’s greatest deliberative body has yet to see a starting point, but they will lard it up and tighten it down before sending it on to the cipher’s probable signature. There are legacies in the balance. Four Senators will be defeated on election day, reserving the right to revise and extend.

Bozeman and Billings and Helena and Great Falls could be the focus of national media attention on election night. Jon Tester and Brian Schweitzer and Mad Max Baucus could make for a closer than expected outcome. Their ballot is shorter than Colorado’s too. Big Sky country has become increasingly shrewd at winnowing out pretenders. Baucus and Schweitzer are safe.

Historically, the mountain states have contributed cabinet members at Energy and Interior. It is probably about time for one to crack the big three: State, Defense, Justice. Colorado’s Senator Salazar was Colorado AG and could do well at Justice. So could Gary Hart. Bill Richardson was UN Ambassador and every New Mexican knows his diplomatic accomplishments. So do North Koreans. State would be well-served by Big Bill or the best candidate of 1984, if he is available. Finding a defense reformer in the mountains may be a tougher scrub. McGovern’s campaign manager, three dozen years wiser, is still in the region and could perhaps be persuaded to consider it. At least Secdef Gates has started to clean up after that Rummy. Janet Napolitano and Dave Freudenthal will make short lists for cabinet spots, but it is not clear they can be replaced. In New Mexico, Diane Denish may be ready to step up.

Energy and Interior should still be western preserves. The next Secretary Udall or Richardson or Babbitt could come from anywhere, blue state or red, as long as they’re green.

Department of Homespun Senility could be offered to the other party, so long as they don’t try to build any fence/walls. They might also let us board with our shoes on and carry those cute little bottles the airlines used to offer. They also have to throw out the old color scheme in favor of green.

To look on the brighter side, forty years ago, nobody said “hey, hey LBJ, how many banks did you close today?” However, of all the memorable Jesse Jackson phrases, one that seems especially pertinent is “economic injustice is nothing but violence in slow motion.” Things are speeding up.

It is fiscal year 2009. Nothing is different and everything looks bleaker. Dark Cheney must have his hand in this somehow. Whether stovepiping worst-case pessimism or matching sneers with Phil Gramm, we could always count on him for measured recklessness. Hey! Cheney is still registered in Wyoming. Let’s make him secretary of the smirking chimps. He has been in charge of them for eight years. The current and Ford administrations would thus be, you guessed it, bookends.

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