Friday, April 03, 2009

Obama meets the CEOs

If this Politico story is to be believed the President of the United States is running something akin to a protection racket:
The bankers struggled to make themselves clear to the president of the United States.

Arrayed around a long mahogany table in the White House state dining room last week, the CEOs of the most powerful financial institutions in the world offered several explanations for paying high salaries to their employees – and, by extension, to themselves.

“These are complicated companies,” one CEO said. Offered another: “We’re competing for talent on an international market.”

But President Barack Obama wasn’t in a mood to hear them out. He stopped the conversation, and offered a blunt reminder of the public’s reaction to such explanations. “Be careful how you make those statements, gentlemen. The public isn’t buying that.”

“My administration,” the president added, “is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”
Wow. This is truly breathtaking. In effect President Obama is telling the country's financial leaders that if they don't fall into line that he can't guarantee their safety. If they don't get with the program he will unleash the mob.

Even if this is merely an unfortunately slip of the tongue and Obama meant something far more innocuous, it is still a massive failure of leadership. Rather than seeking to quell the seething masses Obama is blowing with the prevailing political winds and seeking to tap into the anger to suit his own purposes. Rather than appealing to reason he loudly proclaims his own anger and sympathy with the mob, then reminds the targets of the mob's ire that he is their only form of protection.

Obama continued:
The president spoke of public outrage over the high flying executive lifestyle. “The anger gentlemen, is real,” Obama said. He urged pay reform and said rewards must be proportional and balanced, and tied to the health and success of the company.
Amazing. Obama is attempting to dictate to CEOs how they should compensate their employees, again using the anger of the mob as leverage. How about we also link the pay of our politicians to the health and success of the country? Given the surging deficits and unemployment I suspect this would make the role of Congressman, Senator or President basically a volunteer position.

And then there's this:
JPMorgan’s Dimon spoke first. He began by complimenting the president on the economic team he’d assembled. And he said his industry needs to explain more directly to the American people that the economic recovery plans are already working. Dimon also insisted that he’d like to give the government’s TARP money back as soon as practical, and asked the president to “streamline” that process.

But Obama didn’t like that idea – arguing that the system still needs government capital. The president offered an analogy: “this is like a patient who’s on antibiotics,” he said. “Maybe the patient starts feeling better after a couple of days, but you don’t stop taking the medicine until you’ve finished the bottle.” Returning the money too early, the president argued could send a bad signal.

Several CEOs disagreed, arguing instead that returning TARP money was their patriotic duty, that they didn’t need it anymore, and that publicity surrounding the return would send a positive signal of confidence to the markets.
Simply stunning. These CEOs are trying to repay the money as fast as possible and Obama doesn't want it! And don't believe the "patriotic duty" bit for a second -- these people are just sick and tired of being told what to do by the clueless politicians in Washington, Obama being Exhibit A.

Every day you get more of a feeling that we are living in a banana republic.

Update: The mob in action in NYC:

Note the uniformity of the printed signs, indicating both central planning and funding

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