In the wake of Barack Obama’s election victory, pundits noted that the economic situation was so dire the nearest comparison they could think of in terms of presdiential transition was FDR during the Depression or possibly Abraham Lincoln in the runup to the Civil War.
It seems that George Bush, in his Wall Street speech yesterday, was doing his best not only to guarantee his utter political irrelevance; but his very best Herbert Hoover imitation as well. Remember, the latter was the well-meaning, genial fellow who simply hadn’t a clue how to handle the worst financial collapse in American history. He basically did little or nothing and hoped it would simply pass as previous financial panics had.
Here’s what the latter-day Hoover had to say to a Wall Street that has lost its bearings and its moorings:
In a defiant declaration in his waning days as president, Mr. Bush traveled to Wall Street — ground zero for a financial crisis that has spread around the globe — to…deliver an apparent warning to the world’s leaders, and the incoming Obama administration, not to draw the wrong lessons.
Mr. Bush suggested those making arguments for ambitious new forms of regulation…were sorely mistaken.
“The crisis was not a failure of the free-market system, and the answer is not to try to reinvent that system. Free-market capitalism is far more than an economic theory. It is the engine of social mobility, the highway to the American dream.
We must recognize that government intervention is not a cure-all,” Mr. Bush said, adding, “History has shown that the greater threat to economic prosperity is not too little government involvement in the market, but too much.”
This from a guy who’s just cooked up the largest single government intervention in the U.S. financial system in the country’s history. I never expected George Bush to have much of a sense or irony, but it really helps to have one when you read this speech. Where is Jonathan Swift when you need him?