The Appropriators

In the end, the answer was obvious. How does he support doing the wrong things at a critical moment?
President Barack Obama has championed an economic stimulus package that Republican Gregg thinks is "focused on things that are extraneous to getting the economy going" with "too little investment in the underlying problem" -- shoring up real estate values and cutting taxes for small businesses and other job creators.
How does he support plans designed to benefit Democrats rather than the country?
The administration moved immediately after Gregg's nomination to take control of the 2010 census from the Commerce Department after groups representing minorities complained.
Could it be argued that Judd Gregg simply has too much intergrity to join the Obama administration?
Gregg, still a senator, planned to vote against the stimulus plan last night. Gregg, as a Cabinet member, could have made his views known at the White House, but in the end, he would have had to follow his boss' lead.
Obama says the country is in a crisis that could move to catasrophe, and yet he's overseeing a disastrous response.
Gregg said the Obama administration made a "tactical mistake" on the stimulus bill by allowing it to be written by "House appropriators, and if it were written by Senate appropriators, the same problem would have occurred.''

"It should have been drafted, or at least the philosophy that drove it should have been drafted, by people who were thinking about the larger picture of how you get the economy going."

How many powerful politicians talk like this?

He said he understood that when the House bill was being written, the new President and his advisers "were trying to get up to speed, and there were a lot of balls in the air they were trying to catch," but "they basically turned the responsibility over to the appropriators, which was a mistake."

Appropriators, as Gregg called them, "by definition don't have focus and are only interested usually in the accounts they have jurisdiction over. They all have their small arena of responsibility.

"They don't come from a philosophical standpoint," he said. "They come from a standpoint of 'plussing up' whatever accounts they are responsible for."

Gregg said the result is "an unfocused product where we're spending a lot of money on initiatives which really aren't going to be all that much of a stimulus or are outside of the two-year window or are basically just social spending for the sake of constituency support."

MIT economist Simon Johnson (from the Sloan School) writes on his blog, the Baseline Scenario, about how brazenly the financial sector demands its bailout dollars.

Tell me if you think I am overreacting - it has been a difficult week - but I interpret this as saying: “give us as much money as you can, or else.”  And the “or else” appears to be unemployment up around 20% and debt/GDP in the red-for-danger zone.
Johnson is reacting to a research note from an analyst who says, when thinking about buying toxic assets from banks, the government shouldn't care if it's overpaying.
Ultimately, the taxpayer will pay one way or another, either through greatly diminished job prospects and/or significantly higher taxes down the line to pay for the massive debt issuance required to fund current and prospective fiscal spending initiatives.
Back to Simon Johnson:
Can bankers really trump the American government in this fashion?  It’s painful to read, but probably helpful that the oligarchs put their cards (and notes) on the table so brazenly.  This is, after all, a critical fight to save American democracy, and it’s good to know what we are up against.
The banks, he argues, need to be broken up and made small enough to fail so that our economy doesn't get dragged down by banks too big to fail. And we are in danger, as a country, because we have the drunken sailors, who ran us aground, calling the shots on recovery.
We have a powerful banking industry that has mismanaged its way into deep trouble.  Yet these banks obtained an initial bailout - the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP - on generous terms, and have consistently failed to use the opportunity provided by this government support to turn their operations around.  Not only that, but they have flaunted their power - and their arrogance - through paying themselves large and largely inappropriate bonuses.
Gregg's instinctive need to escape becoming part of this 'solution' makes his announcement this week heroic - to an extent that he may not even be conscious of.
"They don't come from a philosophical standpoint," he said. "They come from a standpoint of 'plussing up' whatever accounts they are responsible for."
There you go.