The Campaign Spot

Some Painfully Vague Rhetoric About Financial Markets

Last night, Mrs. CampaignSpot and I clicked through the channels, and came across PBS Newshour. We stopped briefly, and heard McCain say:

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: Too many firms on Wall Street have been able to count on casual oversight by regulatory agencies in government. And there’s so many of these regulators that the responsibility for oversight is scattered, unfocused, and ineffective.
We don’t need a dozen federal agencies doing the job badly. We need the best federal agencies to do the job right.
Under my reforms, the American people will be protected by comprehensive regulations that will apply the rules and enforce them to the full. There will be constant access to the books and accounts of our banks and other financial institutions. By law, it will reduce the debt and risk that any bank can take on.
And above all, I promise reforms to prevent the kind of wild speculation that could put our markets at risk and has already inflicted such enormous damage across our economy.

Mrs. CampaignSpot’s reaction: What? But what does any of that mean? “Do the job right”? “Comprehensive regulations”? “Fully enforced”? Nothing he’s saying is anything anyone could oppose. He’s talking, but he’s not really saying anything!
I didn’t disagree, finding McCain’s talk painfully generic. Then Obama came on the screen.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: The American economy does not stand still, and neither should the rules that govern it. The evolution…
The evolution of industries and new financial instruments often warrants regulatory reform to foster competition and lower prices or to replace outdated oversight structures.
Old institutions cannot adequately oversee new practices. Old rules may not fit the roads where our economy is leading.
But instead of sensible reform that rewarded success and freed the creative forces of the market, too often we’ve excused an ethic of greed, corner-cutting, and inside-dealing that threatens the long-term stability of our economic system.

Mrs. CampaignSpot’s reaction: Okay, that was terrible, too.
I suppose under an Obama administration, we can take solace in the fact that the rules “wouldn’t stand still.” Of course, that might make them harder to follow.
So just to refresh, “casual oversight” is bad; “scattered, unfocused and ineffective” regulators are bad; a “dozen federal agencies doing the job badly” is… well, bad; “wild speculation that could put our markets at risk” is bad, “old institutions” are bad, “old rules” are bad, “outdated oversight structures” are bad, and “an ethic of greed corner-cutting and inside dealing” is bad.
“The best federal agencies do[ing] the job right” is good; “comprehensive regulations that will apply the rules and enforce them to the full” is good; “constant access to the books and accounts of our banks and other financial institutions” is good, “reforms” are good, “sensible reform that rewarded success and freed the creative forces of the market” is good.
Thanks to the candidates for clearing that up.

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