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Archive for Saturday, February 21, 2009

Tone of committee questions reflects poorly on Congress

February 21, 2009

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If bankers or automobile makers or those making loans for homes or others break the law, they ought to be nailed — particularly when they are using other people’s money.

Relative to this philosophy, a very wise man once said, “You ought to spend other people’s money far more carefully than you spend your own money.”

Again, if bankers and others have broken the law, they should be punished. At the same time, many members of Congress have severely damaged their images with their self-righteous posturing when questioning bank leaders during recent congressional hearings.

Chief executives of eight of the nation’s largest banks appeared before the House Financial Services Committee to answer questions and try to explain to lawmakers how they were using funds they had received from the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

It’s a very serious matter that deserves very serious attention. However, it turned into a sideshow. The manner in which some congressmen performed was embarrassing and belittling. They obviously wanted to seize the highly televised session to perform for the camera, make fun of the bankers and get some 15-second sound bites to show their constituents back home they could talk tough and not back down to the big bankers.

There was little effort to have a serious, meaningful discussion. One of the congressmen said, “You come to us today on your bicycles, after buying Girl Scout cookies and helping Mother Teresa, telling us ‘We’re sorry; we won’t do it again.’”

It was a hearing designed to put down the bankers, put them in their place and make them look as bad as possible. They may have deserved it but not in the manner it was done.

Again, if they have broken the law, they should face the consequences.

The congressmen should act like congressmen, not in a manner that causes the public to lose respect for them.

Historically, bankers have had the reputation of being cold-eyed, humorless, grouchy, tight-fisted individuals unwilling to help finance or give loans to well-motivated individuals. Over the years, bankers tried to improve this image and appear to be out front in their desire to help and encourage savings while making funds available for worthy community projects.

The way things have been going lately, maybe the country would be better off if bankers reverted to some of the traits of past generations. Seriously, a bank with good leadership can be a tremendous asset for a community.

This raises the question of, while the actions of chairmen and chief executives of the nation’s major banks are being questioned, why hasn’t similar or even tougher attention been focused on directors of these banks, automobile companies, etc.? They supposedly are the ones calling the shots and approving policies.

Maybe one of the problems today is that most of those serving in Congress have been in the business of politics most of their adult lives. How many congressmen have had to meet a payroll or run a business? How many have carved out a distinguished career in banking, run a school, worked in the automobile or health care business or pursued other career paths? Most have been lawyers or have been engaged in politics at the local and state levels before moving to Washington. There, their main profession was behaving and voting in a manner that pleased enough voters and helped them raise enough money to return themselves to office every two, four or six years.

This doesn’t apply to all those serving in Congress but it does define a good number of these all-knowing, arrogant lawmakers who have such little actual knowledge of the businesses or industries they are trying to control.

The country deserves something far better than they are getting from many of those elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. By and large, those in the Senate seem to behave in a better manner, but, again, this body has its fair share of political showboaters.

Again, if the bankers or automobile executives or others have committed crimes in carrying out their responsibilities, they should be prosecuted. Poor performance, however, should be handled by directors of the banks and other companies.

Whatever the case, it would help a great deal if our lawmakers behaved and conducted themselves in a manner that merits the public’s support.

•••

In addition to the questionable performance of many congressmen and bankers, shame also should be directed to many in the media who have done such a poor, shallow and often biased job of reporting on the Washington scene since Obama assumed office. A prime example is the irresponsible job the media has done in explaining the “stimulus” bill and the billions or trillions of dollars this bill forces on the public. How could Congress and the media give a thumbs up on this bill that no one read in its entirety? There is no excuse for this blindness and gullibility to the political pressures applied by Obama.

Comments

temperance 6 years ago

Those poor, poor executives. It's so unfair that they get grilled before taking public money. Why can't we just hand them the money and be done with it? Why is there Congressional oversight when the free market has been working so awesomely?

Dolph's editorial is as dumb as Rick Santelli's angry white man rant the other day.

lucky_guy 6 years ago

I have to comment that it surely seems that the LJworld editorial staff is getting more and more into the realm of "grouchy old men". First you critisize the congress for not respecting their banker betters, then the noise in Allen field house is too loud, then you get grouchy old Charles Krauthamer on the opinion page.
You need to chill out a little. This economic crisis is going to last a long time it seems, you don't want to waste all that venom and anger on the little stuff, there will be alot bigger things to yell about later when things really get tough.

texburgh 6 years ago

We should be polite to a bunch of thieves who took advantage of Republican's hands off policy to rip off the public and then demanded billions of dollars in taxpayer money to help them maintain their obscene lifestyle? The hell with them. It would be better if we could bring back the stocks and let the public pelt them with rotting vegetables.

They take our money and send folks to spas and retreats, buy corporate jets, grant themselves bonuses and we are supposed to be courteous? They should be imprisoned along with the politicians who let them have their way through deregulation until they had thoroughly raped the nation.

Put them in the stocks.

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