Events of the past week indicate why Congress and President Obama need to hear from our citizenry their dissatisfaction with their disregard of American vital interests. Receiving relatively little notice was the reversal of policy precluding expansion of our West Coast missile defenses as a result of repeated proclamations by North Korea of its intent to attack the U.S. This is surely a good thing, except for one factor: the new anti-missile batteries won't be in place until at least 2017, and then only if Boeing and the other vendors can demonstrate their efficacy.
Are we -- particularly those of us living on the West Coast -- supposed to be comforted by this development? Certainly late is better than never, but do we really expect North Korea and other hostile forces to wait patiently until our defenses are in place? I wouldn't think so; I would expect them to attack when they think we are weakest. Indeed, during the 12 hours prior to submission of this column, they have issued threats against U.S. installations in Japan and Guam. It remains unclear what North Korea is presently capable of doing to whom, but the point is that force augmentation four years from now will not deter them from doing anything and is likely to accelerate their attempted attacks.
More to the point, why would our leadership announce our vulnerability for at least the next four years? It's bad enough that this administration slowed our anti-missile development when it took office, in seeming disregard of the numerous nations and groups which wish us harm. It's worse that they announce our present vulnerability and expect anyone to feel safe about it's continuation for the next four years.
At the same time all of this was unfolding, we were treated to the spectacle of Congress "grilling" and "hammering" (as noted in a HuffPost headline) executives of JP Morgan Chase over the London Whale episode which caused the bank to lose at least $6 billion. To be clear: I have little sympathy for JP Morgan management which seemed at best detached from the actions of their traders, and at worst willfully blind. Recall Jamie Dimon proclaiming that the matter was a 'tempest in a teapot'. The Comptroller of the Currency, the appropriate overseer of such matters, has expressed its concerns about the quality of the bank's management.
Where I have the problem is what any of this has to do with Congress and why the matter warranted so much attention. The $6 billion was a small fraction of the bank's capital which remains comfortably in the 11 figures. No one was bailed out or is likely to be bailed out as a result of the loss. Congress seemed obsessed with whether the bank's CFO spoke truthfully on an earnings conference call with investors and analysts. He may not have, and if the misstatements were intentional or perhaps even reckless, impacted investors may and should pursue viable legal claims for resulting losses. Given the active, and many would say, thriving, plaintiffs' securities bar, I have little doubt that there is ample recourse for those impacted without the involvement of Congress.
It also seems unlikely that any of these inquiries will lead to useful new legislation. The Dodd-Frank law is replete with bank oversight mechanisms, not the least of which is the Volcker Rule limiting banks' speculative trading activities. I can't see anything that was or could have been learned from the hearings that would prompt the development of any new legislation or regulatory strategy that would prevent recurrences, even if one concedes that doing so is important.
The contrast between the noisy inquiries over a matter of little or no genuine public importance and the silence in the face of an administration acknowledgment of serious physical vulnerability of many of our citizens in the face of foreign threats is troubling, to say the least. I am sick of Congress continually seeking publicity and pretending to be a friend of the 'little guy' as to matters that are beyond their jurisdiction and so often unimportant, while refusing to address critical matters that quite literally impact the safety, and perhaps existence, of our nation. If you share my views, please make this clear to your senator and representative. It is an understatement to say that there is a lot at stake.