Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Paulson Loses Credibility

This is disturbing.

Paulson is now claiming he intended there to be congressional oversight of his plan even though his original proposal expressly forbade it.

I'm not worried that Congress won't institute some kind of oversight.

No, what's disturbing about this is that it undermines Paulson's argument that bailing out the financial system is our only option. Many are arguing there are other options to look at. And Paulson wants us all to trust that we are indeed on the brink, because revealing any details in and of itself would precipitate panic. All well and good, as long as we all trust that Paulson has our best interests at heart.

But once we catch him soft-peddling deceptions like this, will more people start to distrust that we need to pony up the 700 billion? And if people don't believe the money is urgent, they will naturally bicker and delay.

If in fact the financial system is on the precipice, if Paulson loses credibility, we all lose.

I believe he may be sincere about that point, and our need to act swiftly. But if you ask me, he's lost any sense from me that he knows what he's really doing. I disagree with Thomas Friedman that Obama, if he is elected, should keep him on for the transition. He should fire him but fast.

Paulson kind of reminds me of a back doctor I went to when I threw out my back with a slipped disk. The doctor had graduated from Harvard and was head of a department as a major hospital. I'd been treated by one guy already who had only made me worse. So I went to the most qualified guy I could find. But this guy claimed he was hamstrung by the insurance company rules - I knew I'd thrown a disk, and I'd come to him for an MRI, but nevertheless he made me take two weeks of therapy first before he'd authorized it (he claimed the insurance company made him do that - but I think he just wanted the business) - and this treatment of his ended up practically crippling me. I finally had to leave and find another doctor, who rushed me into an MRI immediately (no, there were no such rules, he said).

Paulson is a little like my Harvard-educated quack. I quite reasonably suspect that he's part of the reason we're in this hole, and don't quite trust that he won't use this opportunity to help himself and his friends. Sure, now we're flat on the table and ready now for major surgery. No question we have have to act quickly. But Paulson isn't the quack I want to trust my life with.

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