She has long waged a battle within the administration for direct assistance to homeowners, rather than having stressed mortgage holders be the incidental beneficiaries of bailouts to bondholders and banks. Last week, she went public with her dissenting views, giving an interview to the Wall Street Journal. "[W]e're attacking it at the [financial] institution level as opposed to the borrower level, and it's the borrowers defaulting. That is what's causing the distress at the institution level," she said. "So why not tackle the borrower problem?"That's in line with what Obama has said about what the government needs to do next. SPENCER: Is she the sort of Treasury Secretary who'd urge using fiscal policy instead of just monetary policy as a tool to get us out of the crisis? That's the most econ-wonky question I can ask and I don't really know what it means. MEGAN: It means that instead of trying to manipulate the price of our currency to encourage exports or interest rates to encourage lending, she's try to spend money on stimulus or passing legislation that would restructure aspects of how we regulate or spend money in order to make longer-term economic changes. And, yes, I think she is. Certainly more than Summers. The question is whether this Administration or the Obama Administration can have the intellectual courage to suck it up, admit that there are some hard times a-comin', and rather than continuing to throw money at the problem in the futile hopes of staving off the worst of the collapse, will take measures to help the eventual recovery and prevent the next one. There's a real political risk to long-term policy investments when they might have to come at the expense of short-term political capital or gains. But, as I said, I'm sick of squishes. It's 2 years until the next election, someone should "run around yelling 'Fuck you!'" besides Joe Scarborough. SPENCER: I want to give Calderone the link on that, since me, him and another friend are taking a bro-trip to New Orleans on Friday. Also, before you drive back to DC, drive to the Flatbush junction — south on Flatbush Ave till it connects with Nostrand — for a beef patty at Golden Krust. That's BKLYN. MEGAN: Will it last 4 hours? I can bring you one. SPENCER: Oh fuck yes.
Do you trust this guy to lead us out of the financial crisis even though he thinks women are biologically predisposed to not being good at math or science (an opinion that my sister, the neuroscientist, would resolutely disagree with)? Do you think that Joe Lieberman is a "progressive" and should keep his chairmanship? Do you think, really, if I can keep from swearing for a whole episode of Bloggingheads that, perhaps, television professional Joe Scarborough can? Spencer Ackerman and I think: no, no and possibly, but, damn is it funny to watch.MEGAN: So I am coming to you live from your ancestral homeland, aka, Brooklyn. It's very noisy. SPENCER: You are not in Brooklyn. You are in Colonial Williamsburg. MEGAN: Oh, believe me, I know. To get back here at one point, the cab driver insisted that he didn't know where it was (I had been in Park Slope) and drove me over the Manhattan Bridge, to the Lower East Side and tried to make me get out, which I refused to do until he drove me back over the Williamsburg Bridge, cursing me the entire way. SPENCER: He has good taste. MEGAN: I curse more profligately. D.C. is good for some things. So, did you spend the weekend worrying about the security of the homeland if Joe Lieberman is removed from his chairmanship? Because we wouldn't want the terrorists to win. SPENCER: You know it. The terrorists fear no man like they fear the Jowler. To remove him from his chairmanship for the simple choice to campaign against the new Democratic president and for suggesting that a sufficiently Democratic Senate would end the country as we know it would be like blowing up the World Trade Center all over again. MEGAN: You can't mess with the motherfucking Nutmeg State. SPENCER: I want to play by Lieberman rules, you know? Not only ought there to be no consequences for my actions, I want to be actively courted, disloyalty rewarded. Josh Marshall had a good post on this on Friday. This isn't a negotiation! You campaign against Obama? You watch the Democrats gain seven seats, at least? You lose your shit, period. Do you think the Republicans would be this accommodating if Arlen Specter campaigned for Obama and the GOP retook the Senate? MEGAN: I seem to remember them pretty effectively telling Jim Jeffords to fuck off when they fully took the Senate earlier this decade. SPENCER: Besides, what's he really going to do? The New England GOP went extinct on Tuesday. Lieberman will either caucus with the Democrats, officially or unofficially, or he'll go down in flames in 2012. His state voted for Obama by fucking 22 points. MEGAN: But Harry Reid thinks he's progressive. So, like, down is up and up is down and Harry Reid doesn't like making unpopular decisions — or, apparently, even popular ones — so I sort of don't understand why he wants to be Majority Leader. SPENCER: And if there needed to be another reason here, my friend the unkillable Brian Beutler pointed out that Lieberman's gavel has the power to do serious damage to an Obama administration. But are you really sweating Harry Reid for that statement? Reid's people are saying there's no chance for Lieberman to keep his gavel, so who gives a fuck if Reid praises Lieberman? MEGAN: I'm just sick of Reid being such a pushover all the time. He's the head of the Senate. The reason the executive branch keeps getting more and more powerful — besides the truism that every Senator thinks he or she will be President some day — is because squishes like Reid and Frist before him allow the executive branch to usurp too much power from the legislative. SPENCER: But if that's the case, don't look at what he says, look at what he does. He's taking Lieberman's gavel away. That's not being a squish, it's defending the caucus and the Obama agenda. If he puts a crony in charge of the government affairs committee, that's bullshit and I said so here. Even the most outwardly-virtuous Obama administration needs congressional oversight and blah blah blah I hate all this goo-goo good government bullshit like Henry says in Goodfellas. What do you think of Larry Summers because I don't know what to think so help me. MEGAN: I really, really, really cannot believe that the NY Times called him "a leading candidate to be the next Treasury chief." And I hope that when Valerie Jarrett said this weekend that we're all just guessing and that it's not from them that she's specifically talking about Summers. Because they are obviously, I think, floating him to see if they can get away with it, and I don't think they can and I think, worse yet, that they ought not to try. SPENCER: What's the case against Treasury Re-Secretary Summers? MEGAN: I think the biggest reason is that this Administration just shouldn't take on his women are innately not good and math and science bullshit that he said when he was President of Harvard. That is just some stupid, embarrassing, sexist shit that, rightly, caused him to lose his job and the trust and support of the faculty and the student body. I think that, given all the sexism charges floating out and around right now, the main guy that's going to be seen as running Obama's economic policy needs not be someone with his sexist head so far up he ass he can watch himself bloviate from inside his own mouth. SPENCER: So who do you think would be a better pick? Give me your short list. MEGAN: I mean, I like Moe's idea of Sheila Bair that she floated last week. It doesn't hurt that she's a woman, qualified and doesn't care as much about fucking Wall Street as Summers does — although I think those are good things — but I think picking someone like Bair would resonate more with Obama's themes that the next step has to be bailing out main street. Summers is a big business, Wall Street loving guy and always has been, and I think there's a good argument to be made that getting first and second quarter's earning and dividends back on track doesn't fix our economy. I can also get on board with Tim Geithner. SPENCER: Oh shit Crappy Hour just went up in the Kutt! That's change I can believe in. MEGAN: I mean, let's not take this as a sign that I'm on board with everything the all-union EPI is about, but yeah, I went there. SPENCER: What are the relative merits of Bair and Geithner? Because I'll speak for myself. The true test of whether we have change I can believe in is whether I can buy a Range I can believe in. MEGAN: Compared to one another, or to Summers? I think Bair would be an interesting choice if Obama is really serious about this Main Street bullshit he keeps talking about that continues to make me want to pound shots whenever he says it. I think Geithner is a choice more in the Summers school of though, though way less free trade-y than Summers, which is an apt criticism of Summers from the left to which Obama repeatedly promised to "have another look" at NAFTA during the primaries and is sending Emanual around to tell everyone to keep the Colombia FTA out of the new stimulus. SPENCER: Can you explain Bair being better for this "main street bullshit"? Remember, I'm an economic illiterate. MATH IS TOO HARD FOR TEH BOYS MEGAN: Ok, so, Obama is all about how now that we've giving away billions upon billions of dollars to the banks — and he wasn't even talking about the possibly incredibly illegal tax policy change that Paulson decided to pass to give them more money than Congress even intended — that it's time to turn to bailing out Main Street (drink!). Bair comes from the FDIC, so she's more intellectually engaged in issues on a daily basis that are actually affecting individual Americans than all in the weeds of intellectual economics and the kind of trickle-down stuff that's supposed to happen from fixing Wall Street. For instance, from the Kuttner article: