Skip to content
May 12 / Jonathan

Arithmetic, Not Ideology

Dean Baker on one of his favorite subjects, the attribution of ideological motivations to political actors, quoted here mainly for its fine last line.

Frank-Dodd Bailouts: Arithmetic, Not Ideology

It is remarkable how often reporters/columnists feel the need to assert that political disputes are about ideological issues. Why do they feel the need to make assertions for which there is generally no evidence?
Politicians get elected by getting the support of individuals and groups with power. They don’t get elected by being political philosophers.

Contrary to what Gretchen Morgenson (ordinarily a very good reporter) tells NYT readers, the battle over the Frank-Dodd bailout plans is not about ideology. The bills are crafted in ways that make them very friendly to banks. The banks get to decide which loans get put into the program. Presumably they don’t make this decision unless they think they will benefit from the bailout.

In addition, the appraisals on which the government’s guarantee price is set are based on sale prices, which may still be seriously inflated in the bubble markets. It would have been easy to avoid the problem of inflated appraisals by setting the guarantee price based on a multiple of rents. However, the supporters of these bills chose not to go this route.

At least some of the opposition to these bills is based on the view that giving more taxpayer dollars to banks should not be a higher priority than paying for health care, child care and other important needs. It is not clear what ideological issue is at stake here, since the ideology that we all should pay higher taxes to keep the banks rich has never been well articulated.

Emphasis mine.

Leave a Comment