These are difficult times for economic policy makers, especially given what the new Administration inherited. But after five weeks of watching the repeated muffs of the Obama financial team, we're inclined to recall Casey Stengel's famous crack about the 1962 New York Mets: "Can't anyone here play this game?"
The latest example came yesterday, when equity markets showed early strength after a dreadful week when they had fallen nearly 6%. Then investors started to absorb a three-paragraph morning statement from five branches of the Obama financial regulatory team asserting that the government "stands firmly behind the banking system during this period of financial strain to ensure it will be able to perform its key function of providing credit to households and businesses." Stocks headed south around 10 a.m. and didn't stop until they'd lost another 3.4% or so. The nearby chart of the Dow since Election Day is a running tally of ebbing confidence in the new Administration.
Yesterday's statement continued the Obama Treasury's pattern of promising undefined "help" at a time when people are as frightened of the government as they are of anything else. Amid the continuing gloom, the message that investors hear when all five regulators line up as a phalanx is: Uh, oh, things must be worse than we thought. All the more so when those same regulators still aren't offering any specific plans for moving ahead, much less any vision for where they want the financial system to end up.
Have you seen Timothy Geithner
Since his debut speech which was widely panned he has been AWOL.