The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

With his news conference today, Congressman Barney Franks has decided not to seek a seventeenth term in Congress. Apparently, the recent re-redistricting of Congressman Franks’ district and his relatively poor showing in his last election helped him make his decision to retire. 

I couldn’t disagree more with Congressman Franks’ politics. I am sure that many of the policies he espoused are, in large measure, responsible for the financial morass in which we find ourselves today.  But I believe in giving credit where credit is due – and the Congressman does deserve credit.

He is clearly one of the most intelligent of those we elect to represent us in Congress. He always has his facts straight (though the conclusions he drew from those often baffled me). He is feisty, animated and entertaining. That’s the good news.

Congressman Franks, together with many who share his political bent, was greatly responsible for liberalizing the standards that the GSE’s, (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) applied to the issuance of new mortgages – greatly expanding the number of unqualified buyers who suddenly became “ qualified” and resulting in the housing “boom” and the subsequent housing “bust” which is still being played out. The unresolved housing crisis is one of the major reasons that the economy is still stumbling.

And, of course, there is that piece of legislation known as “Dodd/Franks” which is leaving the business community on hold.  With hundreds of regulations to be written – no one is sure by whom or when – businesses are hesitant to hire. We should not expect any major decreases in the unemployment rate until there is clarity on these regulations – and that could be years in coming. Sadly, the bill was intended to insure that no U. S. financial institution would be “too big to fail” – but most knowledgeable commentators believe that the bill did anything but that.

But the worst news is that, should the Dems retake the House next year, the person next in line by reason of seniority to head the powerful House Banking Committee is Rep. Maxine Waters of California. The Congresswoman does not appear to be a friend to business. Based on the rather strident and confrontational posture she takes while asking questions during that committee’s proceedings – it’s hard to imagine that she is a friend of anyone else.

Most disturbing about the Congresswoman is that the ethics charges which were leveled against her were quietly buried by the Democrats in the House and the investigation which was to be conducted in the fall of 2010 has apparently died the death of neglect.

Most of us were stunned at former Congressman Anthony Wiener’s internet posting of himself in the almost buff which finally resulted in his doing the right thing and resigning. Sexual indiscretions – while tasteless – do comparatively little harm – other than to the participants.

On the other hand, involvement in financial shenanigans while heading one of the most powerful committees in Congress has implications which affect the entire country. For that reason, Congresswoman Waters should recuse herself from the House Banking Committee – and allow the ethics charges to proceed so that she can clear her name. Failure to do so merely promotes thinking that the charges are true – and it’s business as usual in the cloak and dagger rooms on Capitol Hill.

So now we’re out of Franks and Wieners.

And our next challenge may be to deal with the muddy Waters.

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