Economics

Why Our Statement Is Not a Dissent or a GOP Report

As a member of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC), I was a signatory to a statement the four Republican members put out today. The statement is on the AEI website here, and is described well in the blog post today by my FCIC colleague Keith Hennessey, which I’ve copied below. A copy of the statement has also been posted by Keith on his blog. I can’t improve on Keith’s description of what this statement was about, but I would add a couple of points. It is very important not to see this statement as in any sense a dissent or as the Republicans’ “report.” It is neither. It’s not a dissent, as Keith points out, because there is as yet no report to dissent from, and it is not the Republicans’ report because it is a very limited statement of the key issues we think should be addressed in the final document. It is very likely that there will be other Republican views that will accompany the final majority report, but the exact contents will depend importantly on what we see in the majority’s findings and conclusions.

From Keith Hennessey’s blog:

Today, as required by statute, four of the ten members of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission sent a document to the President and the Congress.  To provide transparency, here is that document, “Financial Crisis Primer:  Questions and Answers on the Causes of the Financial Crisis.”  The four commissioners are Commission Vice-Chairman Bill Thomas, Doug Holtz-Eakin, Peter Wallison, and me.  We are the four commissioners appointed by Republican Congressional Leaders Boehner and McConnell.

At least some of the four of us will have more to say about the causes of the crisis (in writing) in January.  For now, we believe this document complies with the statutory requirement that the commission report today.

There’s a fair amount of press coverage today of what’s going on behind the scenes at the FCIC.  Some of that reporting is inaccurate or misleading.  I hope today’s focus can be on the substance of this document rather than the process squabbling, but I feel obliged to clarify a few process points in the initial coverage.

— This is not a “report” or a “response” by the Republicans.  It’s a primer on the issues we think will be important to cover in the final report of the commission.  As we have not yet seen a proposed final draft of the report, nor even a first draft of proposed findings and conclusions, it’s impossible for us to respond to that report today.

— Despite the statutory deadline, the Commission recently voted 6-4 to instead report in January.  The four of us are nevertheless sending this document today to comply with the law.

— Last week the Commission voted, again 6-4 along party-appointed lines, to limit the minority’s opportunity to express our views in the commercial book version of the upcoming report.  In a 512 page book that will be for sale at commercial bookstores, those who dissent are now allotted nine pages each.  We will be allowed to express our views without restriction in the official GPO version of the report (which will be transmitted to the President and the Congress) and on the commission’s website, but those views will be limited or truncated in the commercial version.  I suggested increasing the length of the commercial book to allow room for our full additional views but was turned down because it might add $1 to the sale price of the book.  This is, to say the least, frustrating.

It’s probably hopeless, but I want to encourage reporters to focus on our substance rather than our process.

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