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The Latest From “Banker Guy”

Wednesday, September 23, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Two of the contributors to HH.com are “Bear in the Woods” and “Banker Guy,” an anonymous senior ad exec and banker, respectively. Banker Guy has surfaced and his latest is below. I think Bear has been treed.

Hugh,

It’s been a long time since I have written, but there has been so many more important issues-Afghanistan, Cap and trade, and Obamacare. Running a bank remains a real challenge in this economy. While the headlines have gone away the problem loans remain. Individuals, small businesses, and commercial real estate are all fighting hard to keep current on their loans. On top of that the regulators are being extremely tough. They dread the hindsight of the Inspector General and so requiring more and more capital and slapping formal agreements on banks, which make it difficult for the bank to raise capital and deposits.

The primary purpose for writing is to raise alarms about the administrations efforts to enact the Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA) (H.R. 3126). This is another effort by Obama to take control of a significant portion of the economy. This bill not only covers banks but also tax preparers, credit card companies, title insurers, mortgage companies, financial advisors, data processors of financial information, credit bureaus, and any other activity that the agency defines as a financial activity to be covered by the act!

This effort to take control of financial companies is the brainchild of Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard Law professor. Currently, the professor is the head of the Congressional Oversight Committee. She is modeling the act after the Consumer Products Safety Commission because, “(t)his crisis started with the cheating of American families, and [solving it] has to begin there, too.” We all know how that commission had made products better! Professor Warren is being assisted in her effort by Heather Booth and Americans for Financial Reform, a coalition of groups including ACORN, SEIU, MoveOn.org, and many others invested in Community Investment Act activities.

If enacted, the CFPA would severely harm financial providers and consumers. The agency would be controlled by five appointees, one of whom is head of the national bank regulator. There is no real check or balance on the others (Warren is likely to be the Chairman). The agency would have sole authority to make and interpret regulations under existing consumer finance and fair lending laws. The agency would have broad examination and information gather authority. The CFPA would ban mandatory arbitration clauses.

The proposed agency would have the authority to define standard products and services (“plain vanilla”). The agency could require companies to offer these products and if they offer alternative products they could be subject to enhanced scrutiny. (The agency has very broad enforcement powers.) Further, the agency can dictate disclosure and marketing practices, in effect have broad authority over consumer advertising by the financial services industry.

It gets even worse. The law opens up financial services companies to litigation by every state attorney general and the tort bar.

This is an effort to do to financial service what they want to do to the healthcare. Through a panel of five people, they want to control financial services, determine what services are to be provided, how those services are to be delivered, and at a cost they determine. None of this has anything to do with the causes of the financial crisis of 2008, but rather it is the use of a crisis to take control of another large chunk of the economy.

Barney Frank’s committee begins hearings on the bill today. I’ll try to keep you posted.

You can contact me at BankerGuy2009@gmail.com

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The Afghanistan Decision: Lyndon Baines Obama?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

The New York Times details how the president is being pressed by Joe Biden to reject General McChrystal’s recommendation and embark on a significantly slimmed down mission in Afghanistan and the border regions of Pakistan.

The idea of rejecting the proposals of the new commander on the ground less than six months after his appointment is bad enough, but to do so because Slow Joe Biden has a bright idea is truly terrible.

The president’s domestic agenda is in a shambles and his ratings are plummeting to near record levels for a modern president in his first year in office. His global warming hysteria of yesterday adds to the idea of a rookie being handed unvetted speeches –like the one in Congress with the man who died from denial of treatment, except he didn’t– and rushing off to his next media event.

Thousands of Americans died because of the Taliban’s partnership with al Qaeda, a partnership that endures. Hundreds more have died pushing the Taliban-al Qaeda alliance deep into the remote mountains of the region. General McChrystal’s report asserts that with the right forces, stability can be achieved, and within an acceptable number of years.

The choice facing President Obama is a defeat and vulnerability to more terror plots and a second mission back when one occurs, or the acceptance of the commanding general’s recommendations. This isn’t hard. The fact that Joe Biden is on the other side makes it even easier to tell Secretary Gates to proceed with the McChyrstal plan.

Appeasing Iran

Tuesday, September 22, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Are the Iranian fanatics impressed with a Letterman appearance?

While the president was chatting with Dave about various small and very small matters, Ahmadinejad was sounding increasingly, well, crazy.

Days after again denying that the Holocaust occurred, Iran’s president declared that “Our armed forces are ready to confront the forces of darkness. If anybody wants to shoot a bullet at us from anywhere, we will cut off his hands.”

Iran’s front man fanatic isn’t getting invited to Columbia University during this trip to the U.N. In fact, one venue canceled an entire dinner when it learned that Ahmadinejad was to be the guest of honor. Well done, Gotham City.

But he will still get get an American audience for his rantings at the U.N., and his government is getting by in its massive and deadly crackdown on dissidents with hardly a word from the big names in the Obama Administration.

Israel is boycotting Ahmadinejad’s speech tomorrow, and if the U.S. had a lick of sense, it would do so as well. The Iranian regime is a menace to the world of course, but its brutal crackdown on the forces of democracy within the country should remove the hesitation of our government to publicly brand the mullahs in power as illegitimate brutes. A million people marched for freedom in Iran last Friday, and the regime is increasingly desperate and cornered, but the U.S. continues to attempt to engage the mullahs in a “we are the world” exercise designed to burnish President Obama’s rapidly diminishing foreign policy credentials.

“We will make clear that if they are serious, we need to have more substantive engagement,” Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg told the Washington Post. “This may be the beginning of something — or it may not.”

This is the language of appeasement, and against the backdrop of the massive demonstrations rocking Tehran the display of cringing weakness by the United States is appalling. (Andrew Sullivan has a reader e-mail that underscores the significance of the demonstration.)

Yesterday Iran joined Russia’s Putin in applauding the U.S. decision to throw Poland the Czech Republic under the wheels of the Obama bus, another sign that Tehran has taken the measure of the new team leading U.S. foreign policy and found that there’s nothing to worry about.

Israel, yes. It’s own people, yes. But the United States? Not a problem.

“Through their popular uprising, the Iranian people have mounted the most serious challenge to the Islamic Republic in its 30-year history,”writes John Hannah, former national security advisor to Vice President Cheney, in the Weekly Standard. “The regime is frightened and confused, on the defensive, never closer to unraveling. The United States should do nothing that needlessly risks relieving that pressure and giving comfort to Iran’s rulers. At a minimum, speaking up loudly about human rights will increase U.S. leverage in any forthcoming negotiation. At maximum, it could help sustain a movement whose ultimate success in toppling Iran’s anti-American theocracy holds out the best hope of ending the nuclear crisis short of war.”

The president is making noises about abandoning Afghanistan even as he spends hours trying to resurrect a disastrous health care policy fiasco. His approval ratings are plummeting to near first-year Clinton levels, and he has so overplayed his media cards that he may be down to the county fair circuit soon.

What the president should be is focused and firm on the four big three issues of his presidency: Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq abroad, and domestic security at home. (The outlines of the latest plot that are emerging should refocus not just the president but the country on the fact that the radical jihadists didn’t get their motivation from President Bush.)

President Obama’s speech to the U.N. offers him a chance to reset his foreign policy to “serious” and to warn the mullahs that he will not cooperate in their attempts to shore up their regime. If he speaks to the Iranians seeking freedom, he will have earned a great deal of bipartisan respect.

But if he glides over the Iranian regime’s thuggishness and its evil ambitions vis-a-vis Israel and the world, he’ll have branded his foreign policy as appeasement’s second act.

The War Matters Most, Mr. President. There Isn’t Even A Distant Second Priority

Monday, September 21, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

My Washington Examiner column today recaps the health care debate I conducted in Denver on Thursday night with University of Denver Law School Professor Pail Campos.

The reason behind President Obama’s frantic retail television yesterday has to be that every debate over Obamacare everywhere in the country has to be going just as mine did. Proponents of Obamacare from the president down to Obamacare advocate in a two person discussion on a park bench are not just losing the argument. They have lost it. Decisively. And no series of interviews, no matter how gentle the questions or advantageous the setting, are going to persuade anything close to a majority of Americans that it makes sense to trade in their health care for whatever it is that the president, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have behind Door Number 3.

With his health care drive now dependent only upon the willingness of vulnerable House and Senate Democrats –an increasing number thanks to the president– to sacrifice their jobs for his agenda, the president next must decide whether to throw Afghanistan under the bus with Poland and the Czech Republic.

General McChrystal wants to win, and says it can be done: “While the situation is serious, success is still achievable.” What the general needs is more troops, and the president should give them to him and quickly. As with Iraq, President Bush left President Obama the opportunity to secure two fronts in the war against radical jihadism –a war which we have been reminded remains very real and very close to us– and his presidency will be defined not by the health care initiative, but by his willingness to secure those fronts and thus his impact to the country’s national security.

The president’s betrayal of Poland and the Czech Republic on missile defense does not bode well for his decision on whether to retreat from Afghanistan and Iraq in the face of difficult circumstances. Putin’s threats were just words, and the president’s party wasn’t demanding retreat from Warsaw in the way it is from Kabul. President Obama may even wrongly believe that he’s got to focus all his energy and assets on the increasingly self-destructive demand for a health care overhaul that majorities of Americans and huge majorities of seniors don’t want. As Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei write in this morning’s Politico, the president will also get a big push from the left on cap-and-trade, increasing the pressure of the White House to continue its counterproductive push on deeply divisive domestic issues for which nothing close to majoritarian support exists.

The slow collapse of his domestic agenda has got to be deeply frustrating given the president’s own high regard for his own abilities, but he should recognize that, even as George Bush’s ambition to be the “education president” was upended by the realities of the war, so too does his agenda have to yield to the nature of the threat to the country from abroad –a threat we ought to have been reminded of all too clearly these past few days.

FBI agents arrest reputed Al Qaeda terror cell operative Najibullah Zazi in Aurora, Colo.

The threat is real and it isn’t going to be wished away. Asked whether the FBI had grabbed all the suspects in the latest terror plot, a senior counterterror official responded: “They’re still looking…nobody knows the answer for sure.”

If the president abandons Afghanistan or Iraq, he will be giving license to the forces behind 9/11 –and every other plot up to and including this latest one– to reform, regroup and resume the largely unimpeded export of more plots.

Give up the FDR dream, Mr. President, and start acting like Truman. It is a war, and it won’t go away by your pretending that it can be ignored or downgraded.

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