Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Myopia From Dinallo & Geithner On CNBC This Morning

Sometimes you can understand why business people have such fear of government. This morning's incredibly myopic comments and narrow minded recollection of history by former New York Insurance Commissioner Eric Dinallo and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner gave clear examples of grounds for this fear.

First Dinallo crowed about how effective his and Geithner's illegal taking of AIG by declaring it insolvent had been. It was truly scary to listen to Dinallo self-absorbed remarks, never allowing for the possibility, as several observers described at the time, that AIG's troubled financial products unit could have been separated from the solvent insurance operations, and separately taken through a Chapter 11 process, with all derivatives creditors taking proportional haircuts to resolve the unit's problems.

To hear Dinallo tell it, he crafted the best of all possible solutions, irrespective of the capricious nature of the seizing, or the general sense that, due to former NY AG Eliot Spitzer's animus toward AIG's former CEO, Hank Greenberg, the giant insurer was in for some truly 'special' treatment at the hands of New York and the feds.

Sadly, the co-anchors on the set let Dinallo spin his fairy tale of the soundness of the AIG seizure without a single probing question.

Then Tim Geithner appeared from Washington to easily hit some softball questions from the networks  hapless senior economic reporter. Once again, the government official was allowed to go on and on without any interruptions for probing questions or serious challenges to his fairy tale.

In Geithner's case, the fairy tale is that yesterday's S&P warning on US debt is misplaced. That we haven't created too much debt which will be bequeathed to our children, and that extra spending on infrastructure and education is perfectly fine. Yes, the debt needs to be reduced, but certainly not at the cost of reining in special spending. Make sense? Not to me, either.

Both Dinallo's and Geithner's nearly robotic, surreal views that ignore reality ought to put fear into business people throughout  the US. This is the attitude that causes investment to remain on the sidelines and hiring to be delayed. With government officials like these two inventing their own reality to justify power grabs and fiscal imprudence, there's no telling what overreach could come next from Washington or your own state capital.

At this point, in the interest of truth in packaging, CNBC should just relabel itself as a government public relations agency.

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