Congressman Barney Frank has announced his retirement from the House. A feisty liberal, Frank has been at the forefront of progressive causes for decades, and is perhaps one of the only Congresscritters more liberal than Ted Kennedy was.
That said, I'm a bit troubled by his stances on financial issues. I understand the need for bipartisanship in Congress, even in a Congress as bitterly divided as the last few have been. Frank, however, has a glaring smear on his recent record.
Frank's name appears on the Dodd-Frank bill reforming banking regulation, but half-heartedly. If I could be certain that the bill's components were more heavily driven by Dodd than Frank, I could be more supportive of the call for Frank to take over from Tim Geithner as Treasury Secretary in Obama's all-but-certain second term.
Frank has poo-pooed the idea, to his credit, but he would pass muster in the Senate pretty easily (even Republicans acknowledge him as one of the most consensual Democrats, altho they still tout him as one of the most partisan...go fig.)
That Frank understands there's a definitive role for Treasury in banking oversight, and it would be interesting to see how this would be implemented under a Frank regime, makes him a pretty good choice to be sure. I don't want to make it sound like I would flat-out oppose his nomination. There are other questions, particularly his liasing with Hank Paulson to get the TARP passed.
I get it: we were at a cross-roads and despite progressive head-shaking (myself included, at times), we really were a day or two away from a complete meltdown of the American economy. Which still may yet come. Which brings me to a proposal.
There are better candidates to replace Geithner: Nobel laureate Paul Krugman leaps to mind. Krugman has focused on the true victims of this financial crisis and has the wherewithal to articulate his vision in the face of the inevitable opposition from the economic royalists who would be wall-to-wall on FOX News.
Indeed, I'd bet as Secretary, Krugman would go on O'Reilly (possibly not Hannity, tho) and debate the merits of a homeowner/taxpayer bailout with Bill-O. Frank would probably "say the right things," but at the end of the day, we'd end up with a program and policy very much reliant on the corporatocracy. We can no longer afford that. They had their pie. It's time for us to get our own.
Too, dangling Krugman as a potential second term Cabinet member would probably be a very smart strategic move on Obama's part. His re-election campaign will rely on two things: the Republican nominee scaring off independents (something Romney has not done much of) and mobilizing the young, liberal base. Krugman would accomplish the second with minimal repercussions among independents.