When Left is Right

by Patrick J. Deneen on December 8, 2009 · 8 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Economics & Empire,Short

Some thinkers on the Left have sniffed the smelling salts and are emerging from their love-fest to notice that the New Boss is increasingly indistinguishable from the Old Boss. As I predicted. Note that the mainstream Right has found much to like in Obama of late, from his Afghanistan decision to his Nobel Speech. And, more quietly, everyone has lined up to support “cap and trade” legislation designed to make our “leaders” appear to be environmentally sensitive but which is in fact designed mainly to make more money for Wall Street. The same Wall Street that is overall pretty happy with the wan piece of financial regulation legislation working its way through the system – one with enough loopholes to drive a Brinks truck through. Meanwhile, everyone pretends that there’s lots of disagreement between the “parties” in debates over a bad healthcare bill and we focus our attention on media shills who bandy around the terms “fascist” and “socialist” while ignoring that the military-industrial complex continues to roll happily along.

Here’s Matt Taibi (hat tip, Rod Dreher):

Barack Obama ran for president as a man of the people, standing up to Wall Street as the global economy melted down in that fateful fall of 2008. He pushed a tax plan to soak the rich, ripped NAFTA for hurting the middle class and tore into John McCain for supporting a bankruptcy bill that sided with wealthy bankers “at the expense of hardworking Americans.” Obama may not have run to the left of Samuel Gompers or Cesar Chavez, but it’s not like you saw him on the campaign trail flanked by bankers from Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. What inspired supporters who pushed him to his historic win was the sense that a genuine outsider was finally breaking into an exclusive club, that walls were being torn down, that things were, for lack of a better or more specific term, changing.
Then he got elected.

What’s taken place in the year since Obama won the presidency has turned out to be one of the most dramatic political about-faces in our history. Elected in the midst of a crushing economic crisis brought on by a decade of orgiastic deregulation and unchecked greed, Obama had a clear mandate to rein in Wall Street and remake the entire structure of the American economy. What he did instead was ship even his most marginally progressive campaign advisers off to various bureaucratic Siberias, while packing the key economic positions in his White House with the very people who caused the crisis in the first place. This new team of bubble-fattened ex-bankers and laissez-faire intellectuals then proceeded to sell us all out, instituting a massive, trickle-up bailout and systematically gutting regulatory reform from the inside.

How could Obama let this happen? Is he just a rookie in the political big leagues, hoodwinked by Beltway old-timers? Or is the vacillating, ineffectual servant of banking interests we’ve been seeing on TV this fall who Obama really is?

Whatever the president’s real motives are, the extensive series of loophole-rich financial “reforms” that the Democrats are currently pushing may ultimately do more harm than good. In fact, some parts of the new reforms border on insanity, threatening to vastly amplify Wall Street’s political power by institutionalizing the taxpayer’s role as a welfare provider for the financial-services industry. At one point in the debate, Obama’s top economic advisers demanded the power to award future bailouts without even going to Congress for approval — and without providing taxpayers a single dime in equity on the deals.

And here’s yet another great Joe Bageant denunciation:

This frustrating ping pong game in which the margin of first time, disenchanted and undecided voters are batted back and forth has become the whole of American elections. That makes both the Republican and Democratic parties very happy, since it keeps the game down to fighting the enemy they know, each other, as opposed to being forced to deal with the real issues, or worse yet, an independent or third party candidate who might have a solution or two.

Thus, the game is limited to two players between two corporate parties. One is the Republican Party, which believes we should hand over our lives and resources directly to the local Chamber of Commerce, so the chamber can deliver them to the big corporations. The other, the Democratic Party, believes we should hand our lives and resources to a Democratic administration — so it alone can deliver our asses to the big dogs who own the country. In the big picture it’s always about who gets to deliver the money to the Wall Street hyena pack.

Americans may be starting to get the big picture about politics, money and corporate power. But I doubt it….

The bad news, which the Obama administration openly acknowledges, is this: Unemployment will in all likelihood go higher. And nobody on earth knows how to reduce it (although no one in the administration is about to acknowledge that). The factories are all but gone and they are not coming back. Not unless American workers are willing to work 13 hours a day for two Chinese yuan an hour, which is about 31 cents. What US factories remain are laying workers off due to high interest rates, and waiting for a lower interest rate policy before deciding if it is feasible to call any workers back into production.

During their wait they can watch hell freeze over. Banks know a fatter hog when they see it. And that hog is the consumer credit business (nobody has figured out yet that consumers need paychecks before they can consume anything, on credit or otherwise ). To that end the Federal Reserve has logically set a low interest rate policy. And in true accordance with banking logic, the banks took the Fed’s money, then raised the annual percentage rate (APR) on credit card purchases and cash advances and on balances that have a penalty rate because of late payment. Next they raised the late fee. What the hell? If Americans are on the ropes, struggling to make their payments on time, then the logical thing to do is to stick it to them. Bleed ‘em for all they’re worth. It’s an American free market tradition. We the people do not complain. We expect no mercy. America is a business and the American concept of business is pure ruthlessness.

A Deutsche Bank analyst tells me a near term worst is yet to come. Bank failures and home foreclosures have not peaked. A commercial real estate bust is coming down the pike. He says that, while there will be some minor periodic upswings, the fraudulent value of the dollar is now evident as it falls against every other currency, even the Russian ruble (13%), except those unlucky enough to be pegged to the US dollar. As former Assistant Secretary of Treasury Paul Craig Roberts says: “What sort of recovery is it when the safest investment an American can make is to bet against the US dollar?” My Deutsche Bank friend, who is younger and has a family to think about, has taken what he considers more appropriate action. He’s buying gold and moving to an undeveloped Central American country.

But Mr. Bernanke assures us that the worst is indeed over. Despite the outside world’s serious doubts, but Bernanke’s announcement just might fly in the U.S. We believe whatever our Ministry of Truth tells us. We believed that debt was wealth, didn’t we? And we believed in WMDs, and have come to believe warfare is a prerequisite to peace.

The saddest thing is that Americans are cultivated like mushrooms from birth to death, kept in the dark and fed horseshit.

Read the whole thing.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar AML December 14, 2009 at 11:44 am

Hmmm… I am not sure if I would agree with the assertion that the Obama administration is full of “laissez-faire intellectuals.” The Obama administration has acted in a thoroughly Keynsian manner, pumping up demand through massive government expenditures. This does indeed help fatten the calf of big business, but it is not what I would call “laissez-faire.” If you equate laissez-faire with big business loving, then Dreher may be right, but it is certainly not “laissez-faire” in the original meaning of the word.

avatar D.W. Sabin December 14, 2009 at 1:38 pm

Gee, I thought the definition of “laissez-faire” had been updated in this country so that its secondary definition was “see Hermaphrodite” .

One has to enjoy the prospect of someone going to accept the Nobel Peace Prize only to launch into a lawyerly recitation of the Just War Doctrine…always the province of thems who is better armed…..in everything but peaceful intentions…..and a clearly functioning intellect.

Get used to it. Any attempt at making sense of the venal mess is a profound waste of time.

avatar rex December 14, 2009 at 6:49 pm

I was surprised Bageant ripped into Obama that hard. A few hours after reading his essay, I caught Bill O’Reilly giving Obama passing marks on the Today Show. After checking my orifices for the possible presence of monkeys about to take wing, I realized that we are going to head the same direction regardless of who is president. The president is not leading this country, corporations are.

avatar Bruce Smith December 14, 2009 at 9:11 pm

Except to say that the venal mess is primarily an American and British project to re-brand Planet Earth as Planet Casino!

avatar D.W. Sabin December 15, 2009 at 9:11 am

Come now Mr. Smith, there is ample mischief to go around….way beyond the figures you cite.

avatar Bruce Smith December 15, 2009 at 9:49 am

As ever technically and ecologically you are correct Mr Sabin but it was the British who were temporarily most “successful” at treating other countries as slot-machines and particularly the New World. It was Americans recently playing these “one-armed bandits” at Wall Street in the New World who were nearly “successful” in completely collapsing the world’s economy. Of course, from a theoretical point of view cleaning up the venal mess lies precisely between the ideologies of “freedom from restraint” and “freedom to restrain” and therein lies the pessimism of ever reaching that point at meetings of Gamblers Anonymous. Perhaps as we near the season to be merry repeated playing of Bill Kauffman’s posted song “Someday at Christmas” might do the trick.

avatar Nathan P. Origer December 15, 2009 at 5:48 pm

Bageant’s comments about the factories is perhaps the most disheartening of all. It’s perhaps nothing new, but nonetheless something that people seem to pretend isn’t the case. Where I’m working, in regional planning, I see every county-level economic-develop director talk about plans for improving industrial parks, for constructing new parks. It sure sounds nice, but where the hell are the people who are going to produce things in these new taxpayer-funded parks?

On the plus side, a lot of these directors are talking about rail, and our Region has what will be the largest wind “farm” in the country by the time it’s done. Wind’s not exactly perfect, but we may be the last people standing and laughing when the entire oil-based system collapses.

avatar Bruce Smith December 16, 2009 at 9:14 am

Nathan. We must be nearing Christmas here on Planet Casino. Even the Vapid Vampire Squids are thinking they’ve gone too far in sucking the life-blood out of the developed economies:-

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/35c95d26-e463-11de-a0ea-00144feab49a.html

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