Sunday, December 14, 2008

Barney Frank makes me hate Massachusetts even more than I already do, which is saying something.

Unwittingly caught the 60 Minutes piece on Barney Frank tonight.  If you caught it, you may have noticed how flabbergastingly often your jaw dropped onto the carpet.  From the transcript on the 60 Minutes website:

Barney Frank has been called the "smartest guy in Congress," which is lucky for us since he works on some of the thorniest issues around.

I have literally never heard Barney Frank described this way, and at no point did 60 Minutes attempt to explain why we should consider this boorish turd any smarter than the rest of Congress.  Also, is the "smartest guy in Congress" just Lesley Stahl's super-coy attempt at an insult?

"But I wonder why? Because when these companies finally get into bankruptcy they can do the tough things that they can't otherwise do," correspondent Lesley Stahl asks.

"There's only one thing you can do in bankruptcy: break your word, break your deals. It allows you to say to the small businesses, who have been catering lunches for you, 'Sorry, we're not paying you.' It allows you to go to the workers and say, 'Sorry, we're not paying you,'" Rep. Frank says.

Hear that auto companies?? Don't try taking the easy way out--we're on to you!

Again though, this is par for this piece--a perspective I've literally never heard before.  Chapter 11 just gets you out of every legal obligation you have? That's literally the "only one thing" that happens in Chapter 11? Does Barney Frank realize that there are, like, econ and finance professors who access and opine on the "internet," and that regular old people can "google" things like "chapter 11" and figure out whether or not they're essentially get-out-of-jail-free cards? And if this is what bankruptcy is like, then why aren't the Big 3, currently hemorrhaging debt like some third-world government, why aren't they filing like right freaking now?

"What about the idea that in capitalism, if a company doesn't cut it, they die?" Stahl asks.

"That's what Herbert Hoover said. And Franklin Roosevelt said no," Frank says.

"It's what Darwin said," Stahl points out.

"Yes, it's true," Frank acknowledges. "And Darwin was a very good biologist. I don't think he was much of an economist."

In Frank's defense, Stahl is, and has proven relentlessly to be, a complete simpleton who probably shouldn't be on TV as much as she is.  But, yes, according to this exchange, FDR alone stood against the united if unlikely axis of Herbert Hoover and Charles Darwin.  Hoover, I've heard, signed Smoot-Hawley only after considering a few of the early passages in Origin of the Species.

"What we're now faced is with all the taxpayers having to prop up companies that made terrible decisions consistently," Stahl remarks.

"No, we're not propping up companies," Frank insists. "That's your mistake. We're propping up individuals. The world doesn't consist of companies. The world are people. The country is people."

I've been sitting here for a few minutes trying to come up with something witty to say about this.  Nothing's coming to mind.  I'm sure this is philosophically invidious in some way, and that it somehow demonstrates a dangerous and misleading way of thinking.  But I can't get past how indelibly retarded it is.

"You know, there's a theory out there that you, the congressman, had this public spanking of these [car-company CEOs] in order to cover yourselves,” Stahl asks but then Frank interrupts:

"That's the kind of argument that people who do not have any idea what they're talking about like to make.”

"Are you telling me I don't know what I'm talking about?" Stahl asks.

"By making that argument, yes," the congressman says.

This is the closest we're ever going to see to Lesley Stahl speaking truth to power.  And that's about the reaction you'd expect power to have.  Frank's arrogance is as pathetic as it is utterly incommensurable with his actual fluency in subjects like economics.

By the way, you'll have to watch the clip to see it, but Stahl literally makes a pouty-face after her second line there. 

"Television is apparently the enemy of nuance. But nuance is essential for a thoughtful discussion," Frank told her.

Like discussions about Calvin Coolidge and the principles of evolutionary biology.

The relationship between Frank and Paulson has soured lately, since Paulson hasn’t spent any of the rescue money to help struggling homeowners. "Secretary Paulson is refusing to use that money that Congress voted to reduce foreclosures. The bill says he’s supposed to. He won’t do that," Frank says.

"You wrote the bill," Stahl points out. "You’re, quote, 'the smartest man in Congress.' How did it happen that you wrote a bill that the secretary of treasury has the power not to fulfill in the way you wanted it fulfilled?"

"Because there’s a metaphor that works here: you cannot push on a string. There’s no Constitutional way to force them to do things," Frank says.

"But didn’t you write the bill in a way that allows him to do this? And you could have written it differently," Stahl remarks.

"No. There’s no way you can force people to do things," Frank says.

This is my favorite exchange, I think.  Stahl brings another sharp comment, but I suppose she's probably just trying to lead him along.  It's my favorite exchange, of course, because what Frank says is demonstrably false.  Why "demonstrably"? Because it says so in the first two articles of the Constitution, the very document Frank references here.  One of the reasons behind the great expansion of the executive bureaucracy (a bureaucracy Hank Paulon works in) is that the legislature has, over the past 100 years or so, delegated far more discretion to the executive branch in terms of how laws and programs are enacted.  So, while one might argue that TARP doesn't have the teeth to give the legislature direct oversight over Paulson, to say that it couldn't be written that way is a blatant lie.  Then again, maybe Congress's smartest man doesn't know the rules.  Either is reprehensible.

Then again, Frank's pretending to care for the rules is even more disingenuous.  Fifty bonus points if you can find in TARP anything about giving cash to auto companies, which is exactly what Frank is exhorting Paulson to do. 

But to recap, TARP is a)unenforceable and b)not broad enough to combat the whole problem.  Frank designed TARP.  Frank is Congress's smartest man.  My eye is bulging from my skull.

But there are those who argue that reducing foreclosures would reward and encourage delinquencies. "You have the guy who’s working three jobs so he can pay off his mortgage; you have a guy who’s delinquent. He gets help, this other guy doesn’t get help. So isn’t there an unfairness…," Stahl points out.

"Yes, there is," Frank acknowledges.

"That you're setting up? And why shouldn't the guy over here who's been paying off his mortgage," Stahl asks. "Why doesn't he deliberately stop paying it."

"Let me give you another unfairness. I wanna see what you think about this. What about someone who's been working hard, 40 hours a week, maybe with some overtime, and goin' to work every day. And then his neighbor loses his job. The neighbor starts getting unemployment insurance. The neighbor who lost his job is getting money for nothing, from the government. There's some unfairness there," Frank argues.


Frank, who composes letters by Dictaphone - not e-mail, and doesn't even use a computer, delved into the intricacies of modern banking, becoming the authority on all things Wall Street.

Who constructed these sentences?!? Are they being ironic? Who in the right mind would call Frank "an" authority on Wall Street, let alone "the" authority? And how is all this accomplished without a computer? Would you trust your accountant if he didn't use a computer? Of course not.  And here's Barney Frank throwing around billions and billions and billions of other people's money and he doesn't use an effing computer.

"The problem in politics is this: you don't get any credit for disaster averted. Going to the voters and saying, 'Boy, things really suck. But you know what? If it wasn't for me, they would suck worse.' That is not a platform on which anybody has ever gotten elected in the history of the world."

Yes, Barney, the problem is that politicians don't get nearly enough credit.  You spend other people's money for a living, taking photos over shaking hands every time you come up with a new and incompetent way of pissing away money you never earned.  What a reprehensible turd you are.

Note: didn't Bush win in 2004 on this platform?


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