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In his first radio address as President-elect, Barack Obama made this strong statement:

"[We will] ensure that the rescue plan that passed Congress is working to stabilize financial markets while protecting taxpayers, helping homeowners and not unduly rewarding the management of financial firms that are receiving government assistance."

That's an important marker - this Financial Week story shows, the corporate community takes the declaration seriously. All of that is good news. As Naomi Klein ably shows, fixing the bailout is not just a piddling side project - if left the way it is, it could cripple the economy.

That said, it looks like the Bush administration is going to do everything it can to keep things just the way they are.

Buried in the Washington Post's paean to George Bush's newfound commitment to transparency and bipartisanship, we get this nugget ascribing more pernicious motive to the niceties:

Likewise, the administration is laying the groundwork for an unusual level of access to the Treasury Department and other agencies involved in attempts to stabilize the foundering economy. White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Friday that Treasury is preparing office space that will allow Obama aides to sit alongside current dministration officials.

Fratto said such efforts are intended to send a signal that Treasury's approach will not change too abruptly when Obama takes office. (emphasis added)

There you have it - in newspaper print, no less. The current administration on record saying the objective of involving Obama's transition team in Treasury decisions is to try to coerce that team into backing off Obama's own promises (to use the Times' own phrasing) to abruptly change Treasury's current approach.

Now, I don't think for a second the scheme is going to fully work. Obama's not filling his first economic declarations with promises of bailout reform with the intent of allowing a humiliated Bush administration to stop him. I may be cynical, but I'm not cynical enough to believe that Obama goes totally flaccid on this issue. He saw the presidential exit polls showing the bailout bill is more unpopular than ever. And he clearly has the capacity to understand that a poorly executed bank rescue could destroy his ability to right the economy.

That said, anyone who has worked in government knows things are never black and white. When expectations are forged, subtle pressure administered, and devilish details written, it can be difficult to convert foundational principles into federal law, especially when you are effectively sharing power with another power player (in this case, the outgoing president).

So bottom line: The bailout, because it vests so much power in the White House, is certainly something to keep a close watch on during this transition and in the early months of the Obama administration. The incoming president will have near-dictatorial control to change the program any way he sees fit, without much input from Congress at all. But the outgoing president has that dictatorial control now - and is now on record saying he's going to try to use that control to try to preemptively tie the hands of President Obama.

Originally posted to davidsirota on Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 09:55 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Isn't the Treasury Secretary... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    vcmvo2, panicbean, CA Nana, Wino

    an appointed position?  If so then I believe Obama will appoint someone who is in agreement with his philosophy and economic stimilus plans...

    Obama/Biden'08 Winning Change for America and the Democratic Party

    by dvogel001 on Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 10:05:59 AM PST

  •  Thankfully we elected Obama, and not McCain. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    vcmvo2, CA Nana, andrewj54, Virginia mom

    I don't think Obama will be suckered into the plans of the Bush Whitehouse, he has his own agenda, and has been working on that agenda for many months, if not years.

    It doesn't include Bush's plans.  :)

    Good feet giving up good boots. http://www.bringthemhomenow.org/

    by panicbean on Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 10:06:06 AM PST

  •  This top down Bailout has big problems (7+ / 0-)

    This week Bill Moyers and Kevin Phillips touched on how the Bailout isn't working.

    Bill Moyers Journal

    BILL MOYERS: There's an argument apparently going on within Obama's inner circle even as we speak. Some of his advisors say it would be politically and economically disastrous if those billions of taxpayer dollars in the bailout were just to sit in the vaults of the bank. On the other hand, the Wall Street and the corporate types, according to the press this morning, are pushing back. They say leaving the money in the banks would help stabilize them and prevent a further crisis in the credit market. What do you think?

    KEVIN PHILLIPS: Well, I think basically that's the most screaming set of self-interested analyses that I can remember. When this thing was passed, they basically had people on television saying that if this bailout doesn't go through, you're not going to be able to get money out of your ATMs, all sorts of dire things were going to happen. And now it turns out that, well, maybe they weren't expected to spend that money after all. Maybe that was all a great camouflage outfit.

    Because what they want to do with the money and seemingly it's okay by a lot of the people involved is use it for bonuses, for dividends, for sitting around so they feel comfortable, for mergers. It's mind boggling. They created a panic psychology, which has taken a lot of people's 401(k)'s and savings accounts and pension opportunities and pointed them right toward the toilet. And now they got their bailout, scaring everybody to death, and what do they want to do with it? Nothing.

    Yes this Bailout can fail the way things are headed.

    "We let the special interests put their thumbs on the economic scales." - Barack Obama

    by Lefty Coaster on Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 10:06:51 AM PST

  •  The bailout is a tarbaby. Note the absence of (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    yoduuuh do or do not

    transparency.

  •  Trying to continue the undermining of the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CA Nana

    next administration in the White House is what all the Wingers are clammoring for at this time.

    They will howl like banshee's as they realize that although the roadblocks their "King Bush" has put up are broken down early in the Obama administration.

    Nice try, but the American people are not interested in your bad attitude, Republicans.

    Their inability to deal with reality is stunning.

    The Republican Party's agenda to subjugate average Americans is so rotten, it smells worse than the toilet seat on a shrimp boat." Aristotle

    by funluvn1 on Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 10:10:28 AM PST

  •  This is where Hope and Trust will be tested (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lefty Coaster, CA Nana

    I hope he has the right way to move us forward and quickly.  I trust that he will do the right thing.  I want him to succeed and win people over that did not originally support him.  This would be the exact opposite of what George W. Bush did after 9/11.

    America needs change.  We all go kicking and screaming but we will all adjust.  It is time for everybody to step up.

  •  And potentially started a new war with Syria (0+ / 0-)

    maybe he thinks his legacy will look good next to OBama's if he trips up Obama to the point that there is no way Obama can succeed.

  •  Sublety isn`t W`s strong point N/T (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    vcmvo2

    " Resistance is NOT futile, it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling." Wino

    by Wino on Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 10:25:25 AM PST

  •  January 20th Bush will be out. (3+ / 0-)

    Until then, we can expect the same criminal behavior.

    Obama isn't a f&cking idiot...like most of the Dems in Congress. He won't mimic  Bush's disgusting behavior once HE is president.

    When a government violates the unalienable rights of the people, it loses its legitimacy.

    by Rayk on Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 10:33:08 AM PST

  •  Bush isn't smart enough to fool Obama (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cynndara

    I think Obama knows who he is dealing with. It should be interesting but Obama is much more intellectually complex than Bush any day!

    ~ Faith is taking the first step, even when you don't see the whole staircase ~ Martin Luther King, Jr ~

    by vcmvo2 on Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 11:15:27 AM PST

  •  If Obama succeeded in stalling the handouts, (0+ / 0-)

    and enters office with most of the $700 billion still in the treasury; and if he comes up with more of a New Deal plan to actually help the people, and to extend credit to small business, this would do an amazing job of bringing many of the Paultards and other RWers into a place where they might be more willing to cooperate or at least wait and see, instead of seeking to throw a spanner into the works of the Obama administration.

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