Monday, April 12, 2010

In (Faint) Praise of Bob Corker

Bob Corker used to be my Mayor.  I thought I kind of knew him.  As mayor, he did a pretty good job.  Despite being Republican, he was generally open-minded and cooperative with everyone.  He was far from the rigidly dogmatic Republicans that are all too common these days.  Even though I didn't vote for him for the Senate (I have refused to vote for anyone with an R next to their name on principle for a decade or so now), I had hopes that he would do a decent job.

I was thus quite disappointed to see him immediately fall into the dissembling, talking-point-spouting, mindless drone that he became in his first couple years in office.  I guess it is inevitable that a new guy is going to try to please his bosses, but it was still painful to see him perform the way he did.  It seemed painful to him, too, as he didn't wear the Republiclone costume well at all.

Consequently, his changing attitude and behavior in the last month or so has been a breath of fresh air.  He lashed out at the Republican leadership for botching the financial reform bill (by refusing to add any amendments at all in committee), then was one of the first to acknowledge that repealing health care reform was a stupid idea that simply wasn't going to happen.  The Republican party got a collective case of the vapors from all that honesty, and it was very nice to see.  This is more of the version of Bob I was used to seeing, and I hope I get to see a lot more of him.

I'm not sure what to make of his comments in this interview from WPLN, though:
Despite the looming threat, Senator Bob Corker says the government does not need to prop up commercial lending. Because when the government steps in, business owners don’t know whether to expect a bail out or more regulation.
“I think most people realize we’re not going to be doing anything – or at least I hope we’re not – as it relates to commercial real estate. This is something the private sector can work out themselves.”
Corker says he does expect the troubled commercial real estate industry to further stress the entire banking industry.
While I'm not going to argue whether or not commercial lending needs to be propped up (that level of detail is beyond my level of competence at the moment), I do have a problem with Bob's logic here.  It's not a binary choice - either the government bails out business owners or more regulation is enacted.  The proper answer would be both.

If the government has to step in to bail out the commercial lending market, it is direct evidence that the market was not capable of policing itself and more regulation is needed.  If the market does not ultimately need to be bailed out, we can conclude that the painful correction amounted to sufficient self-regulation - perhaps only a bit of tweaking on the edges of the regulations to lessen the likelihood of this happening again would be appropriate.

I'm hoping Bob made his comments as a sop to his party's leadership.  The Bob Corker I knew as mayor would be far more pragmatic in his assessment of the situation.  I do hope that the commercial lending market fails slowly enough that the overall economy can absorb the losses without significant damage - but if not, I have no objection to some sort of bailout that will keep the economy growing.  We're not dealing with mere numbers and theories - these are real people, with families, hopes, and dreams, who didn't cause the problems and shouldn't have to pay for other peoples' screw-ups.  Discretion is the better part of valor.

No comments:

Post a Comment