Obama tsks-tsks Wall Street about guile and greed

Presidential candidate and senator Barack Obama said something earlier this week worth noting — and the audience he said it to as well.

Sen. Obama stood before a sea of Wall Street executives at Nasdaq headquarters and told them to behave:

Our free market was never meant to be a free license to take whatever you can get, however you can get it. And so from time to time, we have put in place certain rules of the road to make competition fair and open and honest.

According to The New York Times, he “described this summer’s subprime lending crisis as a case study of greed among mortgage lenders and the agencies that provide information about them.” He argued for protections of the middle class and additional oversight of those agencies that rate credit.

If more Americans were armed with this kind of information before they purchased risky mortgage loans, the current crisis might not have happened.

Not being an economist, it’s beyond my ken to note whether what he plans to do if elected president concerning oversight of the marketplace will be appropriate.

That he said it at all, and that he said it on their turf to Wall Street securities and investment executives, is remarkable. But what’s stunning is that Sen. Obama has raised more than $3.3 million from the securities and investment industry in the first six months of this year, second only to presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani.

That’s big news in the “bite the hand that feeds you” department. Cynics might say: “Yeah, he said it, but it was wink, wink, nudge, nudge. He’s just pandering to that very middle class he says he wants to protect. All he wants is their votes.”

Perhaps. But at the moment, he’s succeeding in getting enough of my attention to keep better track of what he says and does.

6 replies »

  1. Obama has had a history of going against the grain of those he is seeking support from. He has chided liberal secularists for abandoning for the role of religion in politics to the social conservatives. (http://obama.senate.gov/speech/060628-call_to_renewal/) He has urged the black community to become better parents of their children rather then rely on the government to solve their problems. (http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2007/03/obamas_selma_speech_text_as_de.html)
    He also spoke to US automakers and reprimanded them for letting the Japanese and other foreign-owned companies beat them in fuel economy technology. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/07/AR2007050701771.html)

    Obama’s lots of things, but he’s not a panderer.

  2. The securities industry is trying to run from the mortgage mess as fast as they can, since so much of their business model is fucked if the mortgages they bought tank. (Look at Bear Stearns, for example.) It doesn’t surprise me that they’d willingly let Obama chastise them, and the cynic in me thinks there’s probably some backroom bartering going on to ensure that whatever reforms are passed are watered-down and essentially meaningless.

    But he did indeed say it, and good on him for doing so. The guy is impressing me more and more of late, though he still has a lot of rough spots–like the flub on consumer protection. But he’s getting there.

  3. If only he and Edwards would join forces on a presidential ticket (however premature for primaries). Of course, one or the other would have to sublimate his ego to the other and consent to run for vice president. Probably Edwards, since he’s older and more mature.

    Then, and only then, can the Clinton juggernaut be stopped. God, she’s looking tired lately. Tired face, tired ideas, tired spirit.

  4. Obama is a CFR member, just like Ghouliani, Cheney, Hillary, etc..etc..

    He will not rock the Establishment boat.

  5. Hear hear on Obama – a candidate whose ideas are complex enough to stimulate further investigation.

    As for the subprime lending crisis, I still want to know a few things:

    Who exactly are these middle-class citizens who need protection from their own ignorance? Do I count? A house is still the ultimate dream for most American families, but no matter how tempting the prize or how seductive the lender’s terms, in the end, it’s the borrower’s choice. What kind of protections are we talking about? What information was inaccessible to them? How would that change? Would it make a difference?

    As far as investors in these mortgage companies go, should they have been protected from their own “ignorance” as well? Was there actual deception? Were they not aware of the risks those lenders were taking, or did they choose to ride the wave and then begin whining when it broke? I’m not an investment broker or any kind of financial player (ha!), but I know my modest portfolio. I can read a report and request additional information.

    Protections involving transparency and reporting practices make perfect sense to me; protecting people from their own poor judgment gets a little dicey. I’d like to know how much of this crisis is attributable to fraud of some kind and how much is classic greed-induced risky behavior.

    Any further reading suggestions? Glad to have them.