Pres. Obama last night announced he will nominate Mark Wetjen to replace Michael Dunn on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. As we discussed on The Ed Show early this year, this one appointment has the potential to do more than anything else to bring down gas prices.
Why? Part of the CFTC’s job is to minimize the undue influence of commodity speculators on the price of gas. But so far, only two out of five commissioners have publicly supported that goal – even though the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law requires the CFTC to do this. Two of the three holdouts are Republican appointees. Dunn, a Democrat appointed by Bush, has been the other holdout.
So is Wetjen going to make the difference and give the CFTC the majority of votes it needs to roll back speculative influence on gas prices (not to mention wheat and other agricultural commodities driving up food prices)? When Wetjen’s name first went public a few weeks ago I ran his name by a number of people who are at the thick of this fight. I heard good things about him from people who support cracking down on Wall Street, but on specific policy questions, Wetjen is a cypher. His job has never called for him to take a public stand on this issue. That, and the fact he’s already a Senate insider, might help him get by Republicans in the nominating process.
The good signs about Wetjen are, in my estimation, that Reid has been on the right side of this issue – and that the commodity swings of late 2010 and 2011 have convinced almost all Americans (90%, according to a poll just this week) that Wall Street is at least partly to blame. The bad signs are that Obama has only half-heartedly at best targeted Wall Street’s influence, tending instead to blame retailers, who are actually victims of these price swings. If Obama did pick the right guy, though, it might be the single most important thing he does to bring down gas prices and inflation and prevent a weakened economy from taking him down on Election Day 2012.