This economic crisis is too useful for Obama to want it to end. When Rahm Emanuel -- and later Hillary Clinton -- spoke of never letting a good crisis "go to waste," many people were shocked. But now Obama seems to embody the corollary: that the crisis should continue until he has thoroughly milked it to reshape American politics, society and the economy.
As with Faust, it seems that this "given moment ... he wishes to endure forever." Unlike Faust, however, he will not lose his "life and soul" to such a wish. He'll sacrifice ours, instead.
First came the "stimulus package." With only about $185 billion of its $800 billion in spending to be disbursed in 2009, Obama clearly never intended the money to be about stimulus but wanted the need for a stimulus to trigger the spending he wanted anyway.
Then came the TARP funding, often forced down banks' throats. Now comes word that even as banks want to return the money, the Treasury is making them keep it. One source at a TARP bank reports that Geithner is insisting that banks go through their "stress test" before refunding the TARP money. As Stuart Varney speculates in The Wall Street Journal, Obama wants the banks to keep the money so he can enforce his regulations on them.
Now comes Geithner's plea for extra regulatory powers and Obama's concession to global economic regulation at the G-20 summit. Both moves are game changers for any major American business. Geithner wants the power to take over any business -- presumably in any field -- whose failure would imperil the national economy. Today it's banks, brokerage houses, car companies and insurance firms. Tomorrow? Who knows?
And Obama agreed to agree on international "high standards" for the regulation of all "systemically important" companies to be promulgated by the new global Financial Stability Board (FSB). The United States, occupying one of 20 chairs on the FSB board (21 if we count the European Union), will come to a consensus with other central bankers from the G-20 nations on what these regulations should say. Then the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Reserve and the other regulatory arms of the U.S. government will impose them on our economy.