The congressman is nearly in tears--his face crumpled and voice cracking. This was hardly the response that I anticipated when I asked freshman Democrat Alan Grayson a banal question about adjusting to life in his new job. "Personally, it's extremely difficult for me to be away from my family," he started. That's when he started to swell. As he came unglued, I cast a nervous glance at his aide. The least she could do was hustle him from this awkwardness.
The national ideological tilt has shifted fast, away from libertarianism and toward broad support for interventions like the new federal "pay czar," who will oversee banker compensation for bailout recipients. Such a sudden and dramatic reversal suggests that ideology has not been moored to steady principles. Instead, we have grasped too quickly at ephemeral data points and permitted our worldview to be shaped by panic. In this haze of hyperbole, we have an obligation to discern the more modulated truth.
What is the essence of the problem with our financial system--what brought us into deep crisis, what scared us most in September/October of last year, and what was the toughest problem in the early days of the Obama administration? The issue was definitely not that banks and non-banks could fail in general. We're good at handling some kinds of financial failure. The problem was: a relatively small number of troubled banks were so large that their failure could imperil both our financial system and the world economy. And--at least in the view of Treasury--these banks were so large that they cou
There is an ungainly German word, Vergangenheitsbewältigung, that has no equivalent in the English language. It means "coming to terms with past," and it was coined to refer to the efforts of German intellectuals, journalists, and even some politicians who, over the past half century, insisted that facing unpleasant truths about their country's history was both a moral and political necessity.
Earlier this summer, when the Obama campaign announced that Jason Furman was joining its staff as director of economic policy, the storyline seemed to write itself: Centrist adviser will pull Obama to the right. Furman had first made a name for himself as a wonky twentysomething wunderkind in the later years of the Clinton administration--a period when, to the consternation of many liberals, Clinton emphasized balanced budgets, free trade, and welfare reform.