Elizabeth Nolan Brown // Blog

media. music. feminism. food. city-dwelling. story-telling. and other things.

Is a Treasury Secretary’s Number One Job Really to be Considered Trustworthy?

with 2 comments

The thing that struck me as strangest in the tedious debates last night—and it’s fitting that it’s something that happened at the beginning, because I totally checked out after about 45 minutes; Bill Ayres could have sprung fully-formed from Obama’s back and McCain could have actually morphed into Tokka, the Ninja Turtles II mutant villain that I so think he looks like, at that point and I’d have just continued aimlessly scrolling through Twitter updates on my phone—was both candidates’ answers to the question about who they’d pick and what they’d look for in a Treasury Secretary. Nary a mention was made of economic knowledge or principles; instead, both stressed the need for someone who could “inspire confidence” in the American people, someone citizens could see as “trustworthy.” My mom, Oprah Winfrey, and your kindergarten teacher are pretty trustworthy. But neither my mom, Oprah Winfrey, nor your kindergarten teacher should be Treasury Secretary. What a silly, silly answer.

And were but it only a debate-time tic, a way of campaign deflecting. Sadly, it seems to be a political theme of late, a conviction, even. Actual policies, politics and prescriptions do not matter; only the way they are interpreted by the people matters, the symbolism they imbue. There’s something to that, to a degree, sure, but perhaps we are taking it too far.

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Written by Elizabeth

October 8, 2008 at 2:20 pm

Posted in Ephemera

Tagged with , , , , ,

2 Responses

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  1. Okay, I agree with the overall point completely. However, I don’t think the Treasury Secretary language from last night was completely stupid. Vapid? Yes. But I think it’s an important point: the most basic cause of our current crisis is a fundamental lack of trust in the system. Banks don’t want to lend to other banks. No one wants to lend commercial paper because no one knows if the company is going to be around in three months. Consumers don’t want to buy anything because they don’t know if they’ll have a job in a year.

    Our entire economy is based on trust. A dollar only is worth a dollar because we “trust” that it is worth a dollar. There’s no gold behind it, no silver, only a handshake. And that’s why everything is hitting the shitter. No one believes a dollar is worth a dollar anymore.

    And if consumers don’t have confidence in the leadership, we’ll continue to see polls where 60% of people think we’re going into a depression. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy– a positive feedback loop. People need to start having confidence in the system again. Paulson isn’t going to be able to pull that off because this administration has so completely imploded, so frequently with such panache, no one has confidence that these people know what they are doing.

    So I think, in this particular case, the language is just about right. I just wish they’d amplify it beyond “treasury secretary” and apply it to the economy as a whole. Neither one of them has been an effective advocate for market confidence. They need to start channeling FDR. He was a master at this type of framing.

    This is also, by the way, why Obama’s continual panning of Bush’s “go out and shop” message is really pretty awful. Bush was trying to get people to have confidence in the system and avoid a total economic meltdown, which an attack on the center of the worlds commerce made a very real possibility. That message was pretty sound and overall pretty effective leadership. It’s the fact he didn’t request anything else; demanded no other sacrifice– that is a legitimate critique. I wish he’d frame it that way.

    Justin

    October 8, 2008 at 4:24 pm

  2. You say Takka, I say The Penguin:

    jbls

    October 11, 2008 at 10:42 am


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Is a Treasury Secretary’s Number One Job Really to be Considered Trustworthy?

with 2 comments

The thing that struck me as strangest in the tedious debates last night—and it’s fitting that it’s something that happened at the beginning, because I totally checked out after about 45 minutes; Bill Ayres could have sprung fully-formed from Obama’s back and McCain could have actually morphed into Tokka, the Ninja Turtles II mutant villain that I so think he looks like, at that point and I’d have just continued aimlessly scrolling through Twitter updates on my phone—was both candidates’ answers to the question about who they’d pick and what they’d look for in a Treasury Secretary. Nary a mention was made of economic knowledge or principles; instead, both stressed the need for someone who could “inspire confidence” in the American people, someone citizens could see as “trustworthy.” My mom, Oprah Winfrey, and your kindergarten teacher are pretty trustworthy. But neither my mom, Oprah Winfrey, nor your kindergarten teacher should be Treasury Secretary. What a silly, silly answer.

And were but it only a debate-time tic, a way of campaign deflecting. Sadly, it seems to be a political theme of late, a conviction, even. Actual policies, politics and prescriptions do not matter; only the way they are interpreted by the people matters, the symbolism they imbue. There’s something to that, to a degree, sure, but perhaps we are taking it too far.

Written by Elizabeth

October 8, 2008 at 2:20 pm

Posted in The Best Things

2 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Okay, I agree with the overall point completely. However, I don’t think the Treasury Secretary language from last night was completely stupid. Vapid? Yes. But I think it’s an important point: the most basic cause of our current crisis is a fundamental lack of trust in the system. Banks don’t want to lend to other banks. No one wants to lend commercial paper because no one knows if the company is going to be around in three months. Consumers don’t want to buy anything because they don’t know if they’ll have a job in a year.

    Our entire economy is based on trust. A dollar only is worth a dollar because we “trust” that it is worth a dollar. There’s no gold behind it, no silver, only a handshake. And that’s why everything is hitting the shitter. No one believes a dollar is worth a dollar anymore.

    And if consumers don’t have confidence in the leadership, we’ll continue to see polls where 60% of people think we’re going into a depression. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy– a positive feedback loop. People need to start having confidence in the system again. Paulson isn’t going to be able to pull that off because this administration has so completely imploded, so frequently with such panache, no one has confidence that these people know what they are doing.

    So I think, in this particular case, the language is just about right. I just wish they’d amplify it beyond “treasury secretary” and apply it to the economy as a whole. Neither one of them has been an effective advocate for market confidence. They need to start channeling FDR. He was a master at this type of framing.

    This is also, by the way, why Obama’s continual panning of Bush’s “go out and shop” message is really pretty awful. Bush was trying to get people to have confidence in the system and avoid a total economic meltdown, which an attack on the center of the worlds commerce made a very real possibility. That message was pretty sound and overall pretty effective leadership. It’s the fact he didn’t request anything else; demanded no other sacrifice– that is a legitimate critique. I wish he’d frame it that way.

    Justin

    October 8, 2008 at 4:24 pm

  2. You say Takka, I say The Penguin:

    jbls

    October 11, 2008 at 10:42 am


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