Vice President Biden's remarks, today, are surprising on several levels. One of them is that they weren't a thoughtless or careless remark of the sort to which Mr. Biden has been so prone. This is proven in two ways. First, the campaign had a fully-considered response to the predictable outrage by the Romney camp.
A spokeswoman from the Obama campaign defended Biden's remarks, saying there was "no problem" with the accusation. "For months, Speaker Boehner, Congressman Ryan, and other Republicans have called for the 'unshackling' of the private sector from regulations that protect Americans from risky financial deals and other reckless behavior that crashed our economy," said Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter. "Since then, the Vice President has often used a similar metaphor to describe the need to 'unshackle' the middle class.
The use of shackling metaphors is thus quid pro quo, she suggests, as though there were no difference between metaphors of shackling and unshackling. The American mission, though, is built on the very clear difference between the two.

The second fact about the remarks that shows they were pre-planned and intentional is the delivery. Listen to Mr. Biden's delivery. He's just talking at the start, but as soon as he gets to "Unchain Wall Street," he adopts a form that is intended to mimic the feel of gospel church. The following remark is thus framed.

The thing is, if you left off the subtext created by the remarks and the inflection, Mr. Biden is making a point with which I'd be prone to agree. I do want to see Wall Street more carefully monitored and controlled. I do think it's important that the banks be subject to more regulation and oversight. Of course, his administration has been horrible on the subject, but the Romney campaign leads me to believe they would certainly be no better.

The problem with the remarks from a rhetorical perspective, then, is that they poison a legitimate argument with which even your opponents might agree. This is traded for a moment of race-baiting. It's one thing to race-bait when you have nothing else to say -- it's unconscionable, but nevertheless common as a political and rhetorical tactic -- but usually if you have a good argument, you'd press the argument.

I suppose we have to read this as an admission of failure, then. Even here, where ideologically they ought to be on strong ground, the truth is they've done nothing on which they might run. They have no accomplishments to back up their rhetoric, so they must refer us away from an examination of their record.

By the way, these remarks were delivered in Danville, Virginia. That was the town the Old 97 never reached.


bthun said...

Snake-oil Lite™, now with extra Befuddlement.

Eric Blair said...

I'm not surprised by anything anymore.

Nicholas Darkwater said...

I see that they let Stephanie Cutter up for air after the "I don't know Joe Soptic" debacle. The press, as usual, is in its typical "Move along, nothing to see here" mode as it relates to the Democrats.

As for Romney & banks, there is a difference between being actively engaged & regulating. The Navy term that relates is "control by negation" -- the commander will allow the officer working in his stead (the OD, for example) free rein, until the CO steps in if direction is needed. Regulating involves active control.

You picked up well on the change in tone when Biden delivers the money shot. Sure, they say "y'all" a lot in Delaware.

Obama should be tossed out on his ear if only for the fact that he exercised such abysmally poor judgment in choosing this clown as his vice president.

Texan99 said...

The banks would need a lot less regulation if they were allowed to fail when they screwed up.

Grim said...


Anonymous said...

I'd like to see regulations put in after 2008 held in abeyance and instead have actual enforcement of the laws on the books in 2008. Not used after the fact, but actually followed. I suspect we'd have just as good, if not better, monitoring of the banks and financial institutions, without the extra cost.

And yes, get rid of "too big to fail," which has become "too big of a donor to be allowed to fail."


Cass said...

The financial crisis didn't happen because banks were regulated enough.

It happened because they were regulated too much. Government caused the problem, so more regulation is not the solution.

Legislators don't know enough about lending to tell banks how to conduct their business. Wall street makes an easy target for populist rage, but it's odd to see someone who usually argues for LESS government and fewer laws asserting that the solution to a problem government caused with excessive regulation and entanglement in private enterprise is more regulation and entanglement.

What, specifically, would such regulation do and why is it needed?

Cass said...

The financial crisis didn't happen because banks weren't regulated enough.

Grim said...

I'd like to see some oversight in terms of risk-creation versus leverage. When we get to the point that the total amount of credit default swaps and other leverage mechanisms magnifies the debt due beyond anyone's capacity to pay, we've got a problem that ought to be easy to recognize. Total debt shouldn't exceed capacity to pay -- even if we take 'capacity to pay' loosely, and consider probable rates of return over the life of the loan.

Grim said...

And if it's true that Congress doesn't understand these arcane financial mechanisms well enough to regulate them, well, somebody sure needs to learn. You can't trust anyone to regulate his own books. Even the Pope needs an accountant.

E Hines said...

...see some oversight in terms of risk-creation versus leverage.

We'd need to be very careful about who, and under what terms, does this oversight. Federal agencies already are enjoined to do cost analyses on any of their regulations that will cost over $100 million. The EPA satisfies that requirement by saying, "Well, this won't cost $100 mil. And that will have the cost recovered because we know the regulated companies will do this other thing in response."

The Pope may need an accountant, but that accountant needn't be the government's man.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

If you can get a man of God to do it, that's fine with me; all I care about is that we stop trusting the big banks to do it on their own. As leery as I may be of the government in general, if I can set two of my enemies to hounding each other I'm better off than if they're hounding me in concert. And that, so long as we're letting the banks pocket their profits while buying their bad bets with taxpayer dollars, is just what the situation looks like now.

Texan99 said...

It's not about trust, it's about setting up a system where the consequences of their failure fall on themselves. Then they'll regulate themselves. Regulators are up to the job of preventing simple theft or violation of reserve requirements. Where they fall down on the job is in accurately assessing risk or taking measures to deal with it. The only effective way we know of dealing with risk is to make its consequences land on the people who incur it.

That also probably means that deposit insurance shouldn't cover all of the depositors' losses. You can probably get away with covering a big chunk of them, so they won't be destitute, but if you cover 100% of deposits, people will deposit their money with whoever pays the highest rate rather than with the banks that have the best reputation.

Cass said...

I'm not actually unfriendly to regulation of banks, Grim. And in fact, they are already regulated to an extent that would probably surprise you.

The credit default swaps only happened because government regulation and oversight forced banks to take on risks that threatened their ability to stay in business. These were risks they absolutely did NOT want to take on.

Regulations already on the books (but which were not enforced or acted upon when violated) would have gone a long way to preventing what happened. If the gun control or immigration debates come to mind, there's a reason for that :p