Neil Watko’s latest letter in the March 24th issue of the CB News was signed as representing the ‘Gunnison GOP.’ Do Neil’s writings speak for Gunnison County Republicans? Do they endorse his style, tenor, and accuracy? Are these the messages they want to share? We hope not. We find ourselves replying again to disinformation.
Neil refers to retired Rep. Barney Frank, who wrote the 2010 legislation expanding oversight of banks after the 2008 financial crisis. He wondered how Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) could fail with Frank on the Board. Good question, but Neil failed to mention that Dodd-Frank requirements were weakened for smaller banks by legislation President Trump signed in 2018, sadly with some bipartisan support. That helped to precipitate these most recent bank failures. Was this an effort at deception by omission or just incomplete research?
Neil alleges that SVB gave Black Lives Matter (BLM) $73 million which was used to buy houses for leaders. This is not true. According to Market Watch and other reputable sources, SVB gave nothing to BLM. Black Lives Matter is not one entity with formal leaders, but a decentralized international activist movement with no formal hierarchy. Is this intended deception or sloppy fact checking?
He berates President Biden for renaming Jerome Powell to chair the Federal Reserve Board. Powell was nominated by President Trump in November 2017. Was the appointment wrong only when done by Biden?
He criticizes Powell and Janet Yellen, Secretary of the Treasury, for raising interest rates causing the banks to fail. The Department of the Treasury does not control interest rates. The Fed does. Some weeks ago, Neil complained about inflation. Raising interest rates is the Fed’s main tool for fighting inflation. If you wish to complain about inflation yesterday, you might explain why you oppose higher rates today.
His reckless statement that the U.S. banking system is insolvent is unsupported. Since 2015 bank failures have been in the single digits yearly with none in 2018, 2021, or 2022. In fact, no one has lost a penny from an FDIC-insured account since the inception of the FDIC in 1933.
Neil doesn’t take into account how the FDIC works or the reserves that banks are required to hold to back up deposits. He doesn’t recognize that SVB and Signature Bank were banks of choice for tech start-ups and cryptocurrency dealers, which have both been volatile in recent years. Still, if there are major runs on smaller banks and the government decides to back up all deposits, as was done with SVB and Signature and not just those under $250,000, the FDIC will be challenged. This suggests the need for more regulation on the banking industry, not less.
Neil calls the “shoot down” of a U.S. drone an act of war and berates Biden for not doing more in response. In fact, a Russian aircraft struck the drone while attempting to dump fuel on it to possibly disable its cameras. Again, in his previous letter Neil complained about the money we were spending to support Ukraine. Now Neil wants to wage war with a nuclear power over the loss of an unmanned drone? Probably not wise. Such inconsistency is puzzling only if one ignores Neil’s predictable blaming of Biden whenever he can.
Neil suggests the Mueller investigation was bogus because it was based on the Steele dossier. The dossier was only a minor footnote in the investigation. Mueller’s work generated convictions for six of Trump’s staff who were found guilty of a variety of charges including conspiracy against the United States, witness tampering, conspiracy to obstruct justice, bank fraud, hiding foreign bank accounts, tax evasion, lying to the FBI, lying to a bank, campaign finance violations, obstruction of Congress, and lying to Congress. None of these convictions had anything to do with the Steele dossier. We hope all can agree that prosecuting those guilty of conspiracy against the United States and other serious crimes is worthwhile. Was this misrepresentation on Neil’s part intended?
Neil drew information from Republican James Comer’s House Oversight Committee regarding payments from Robinson Walker LLC to Biden family members or Biden-related businesses. Just over $1 million was paid into the LLC from mostly unspecified sources and was distributed to President Biden’s son Hunter, brother James Biden, daughter-in-law Hallie and several Biden-related businesses. Neil seems sure this is proof of illegal payoffs but so far there is no proof suggesting this money was illegitimate or used to buy influence. Most came in after Joe Biden was out of office. The Delaware U.S. Attorney, a Trump appointee, has been conducting an investigation since 2018 so far without charges.
If Neil is worried about uncertain Biden business income, he must be horrified that Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner got a $2 billion infusion from the Saudi government’s Investment Fund into his fledgling and unproven investment management firm six months after Trump left office. Kushner dealt directly with the Saudis while working in the White House and Trump helped to downplay the Saudi assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Such a deal creates the appearance of potential payback for Mr. Kushner’s actions while he worked in the White House or a bid for future favor should Trump win reelection.
Disinformation, intentional or sloppy, is not helpful in bringing people together to address our nation’s problems, and we hope to advance reasonable debate by calling it out when we see it.
Gunnison County Writers’ Group