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Tuesday September 23, 2008 - 20:10:06 GMT
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Forex Blog - It's an Archie Bunker World. Congress and Paulson Have an Agreement; Don't Confuse Theater with Done Deals.

I can’t tell you how many calls I have had today from people utterly exasperated with our political representatives in Congress after watching the Senate Finance Committee hearings with Paulson, Bernanke, Cox and Lockhart.  Indeed look at equities today which reversed early gains (decent ones) as the hearing progressed suggesting investors are worried Congress and the Treasury may not get a deal done on a major bank rescue package in enough time to avoid a banking calamity – like the one that almost unfolded on Thursday. 


Well this all reminds me of Archie Bunker (the 70’s sitcom) complaining about his ethnic neighbors, opponents of the war in Vietnam, hippies (like his son in-law Meathead) and uttering about every stereotype imaginable.    For those who don’t know the stereotype it goes like this…the Congress is responsible for everything in life that goes awry.  They do only bad not good and have one voter in mind when making all decisions…themselves.  If Archie Bunker were still running George Jefferson would not be the brunt of his prejudices, it would be Congress. 


I feel like Meathead, the curse on Archie Bunker, who married Archie’s daughter and lives in the house with the Bunkers.  Meathead was a liberal, anti-war near-hippie. 


Folks Congress is not the problem.  Congress has a deal with the US Treasury Secretary before the hearings started today.  The hearings would not have happened unless there was a basic agreement.  Today is all about political theater.  Senators go home to constituents in a week, many facing an election (one third).  They need to show themselves in a hearing not rubber stamping anything Bush admin related.  Paulson will have to adjust his bill before Congress finalizes and it will be finalized within a week.  So all those legal stock sellers who felt a need to dump equities on today’s hearing (and those exiting risk in credit markets), need to get a grip.  This is theater.  It is the same stage that has been in place since ancient Greece in western political history. 


I think stocks should be sold for other reasons…a deep and long recession and depressed corporate profits (if anything large cap financials have put in a bottom – upside limited…maybe a large cap financial is an oxy moron). 


Archie Bunker take on Congress comes closer to home for many financial market professionals’ prejudices…Congress does not know a CDO from a UFO.  Why should elected officials not from a background of finance have the right to question Paulson and Bernanke?  Well it is part of the imperfection of the political system – checks and balances – and carries an F150 full of shortcomings.   But what else would one want instead?  A dictatorship that decrees bank rescue plans?  I don’t think so.


One other Archie Bunker stereotype has to do with Fannie and Freddie – the Democrats are beholden to the GSE’s because they get the bulk of the GSE political contributions.  This is patently false – Senate Republicans got more than Senate Democrats and House Democrats got more than House Republicans and both parties’ representatives got about the same.  And in another Archie-Meathead moment, the biggest benefactor of Fannie and Freddie is (was) Wall Street…fixed income desks’ largest customer, debt underwriting desks’ largest customer.  Wall Street had much more to lose in a closing of the doors of Fannie and Freddie than Congress.  And yes there are thieves and villains in Congress…but Wall Street bashing Congress is not sport, it is the epitome of irony  - throwing stones in glass houses.


David Gilmore


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