Sunday: Taking the Top off the Mountain

Digby wonders why the bankers are whining.  They’ve gotten everything they wanted but they’re all upset that Obama is speaking harshly to them.  So, now they’re going to sit on their money and not give him any for his re-election.

Wait!  Why is that a *bad* thing?  If they’re not contributing to his campaign, maybe he and other Democrats will have to start paying attention to what the voters want.  Would that be such a crime?  After all, there are more voters than bankers.  Seems to me that banker money has made it too easy for Democrats to coast instead of doing what they’re supposed to be doing.  So, ok, then, let the bankers keep their money.  And if they give it to Republicans to run a bajillion campaign ads, then Democrats better get on it and do some legislatin’.  But I digress.

So, Digby’s question is a valid one: What drives the bankers to be such whiny Verulka Salt’s who want it all NOW!?  She has a couple of theories that glance at the truth tangentially.  They explain the whininess but not what drives the bankers.  They’re either naive, resentful of populism or arrogant twits.

But if you’ve read my Strategy of No Strategy series, you’ll see if from a different point of view altogether.  The finance class actually consists of a bunch of overqualified strip miners.  They’re overworked, which might explain the number of bad decisions they make, and their compensation system decouples the consequences of their actions from the actions themselves.  They are being paid to make “deals” and the purpose of those deals is to extract “wealth”.  In a way, it’s not that much different from getting into the cab of some giant piece of earth moving equipment and mowing down the side of the mountain and then loading that potential ore onto a conveyor belt to be separated from dirt.  They live in a “company” town and are paid “company scrip”.  It’s a truck system for them as well.  The compensation is not proportional to the amount of work they do, they can be fired at will and they’re never going to leave that mountain because they owe their souls to the company store.  The more they work, the more compensation in bonuses they are promised but it’s never enough.

That’s not to make you feel sorry for them.  That’s just the way it is.  And seeing it for the way it really is can help us get over the very legitimate emotion of wanting to ring their skinny necks right out of their Brooks Brothers suits. We need to separate our feelings of hatred towards them from our understanding of what’s really going on here.

What I see is really going on here with Obama is that he was hired because he is one of them.  He comes from the right school, he has the right pedigree, he had the right connections.  It didn’t matter if he knew nothing about finance.  Just like them, he would get a crash course and learn on the job.  And they have taken this deal with him as far as it would go.  Just like them, Obama has stripped the top of the mountain.  There is no more wealth to be extracted.  Now, the middle class has been mined to death.  It’s exhausted and can no longer generate the wealth that they have been paid to retrieve.  They’re screwed.  The owners (ironically, that would be some of us shareholders through our 401Ks) want more money.  There’s no more to give.  It’s a vicious circle because generating more wealth for us, the shareholders, means laying more of us off, which means less wealth going into the 401Ks.  When Obama finally signs the Grand Bargain, he will be creating an environmental catastrophe but before that happens, he has to win this election and people are hurting so badly, he may not be able to do it.

Do the number of ad buys really make a difference anymore?  We may see the effects of the internet on politics for real this election season.  Some of us have given up TVs altogether and no longer subscribe to newspapers.  I’m guessing that would affect the Democrats more.  Their base is younger and better educated (but not necessarily smarter).  The people who are moved by TV ads are older and less well educated.  That would favor Republicans.  I don’t know, this crap makes me crazy.  It’s all a bunch of political psych tricks that make no difference to how people live their lives.  But I suspect that the Osama bin Laden to-do this week had something to do with appealing to older and independent voters.  I could care less.  All I want to hear coming out of either candidates’ mouths is how they are planning to solve the unemployment problem and save our retirements without requiring even one more half penny of sacrifice from the late babyboomers.  Anything other than that might as well be speaking in some obscure language from a small isolated population in the Caucasus.  “Blah-blah-blah-SEALS! Blah-blah-blah-SHOT-IN-THE-EYE!” Who. Gives. A. FRACK.

So, as I was saying, the bankers are like strip miners and they’re not getting much out of the mountain anymore, their manager says the place is exhausted and they’re puzzled because this particular piece of real estate has been pretty rich for so long that it’s hard to take it all in that it’s gone.  It’s really gone.  And now, they have to go mine somewhere else and in those other places, the ore’s not so rich or it’s harder to get at or there are people standing in the way or it’s going to take time to get the permits and pay off the owners or make new deals.  They’re going to have to do a trickier kind of work now or they’re in big trouble because the deals they are about to make are a lot riskier.  Meanwhile, they’re leaving a big mess behind with lots of toxic runoff and the downstream people are angry because they have destroyed our economic ecosystem.  I guess they want Obama to keep the rabble down while they finish their work but it’s getting loud and noisy and not helping their concentration.  Maybe Mitt can keep a lid on it…

Anyway, that’s the way I see it.  They’re getting paid to stripmine.  Changing the way they behave will require the will to change the environment they work in.  If I were really interested in changing the way this works, I would have protected the employees that worked for Wall Street at the very beginning of this crisis.  I would have enforced workplace standards, required a limit on the number of hours worked, required mandatory overtime to be dispensed with the next immediate paycheck, enforced the minimum wage, tied salary to hours worked and prevented bonuses from rising to more than 20% of salary, mandated more 4 weeks of vacation per year, paid, and required every blessed transaction to undergo rigorous outside auditing, just to slooooow everything down.  Also, I might have had the EEOC or some other agency review hiring practices so that applicants were not discriminated on the basis of where they went to school or their genders.

From the money side of things, I would have begun the process of eliminating the 401K, reinstituted the defined benefit pension plan, and placed rigorous outside auditing checks on every blessed pension fund transaction.  One final thing: I would have made sure that I seized control of any fiber optic cable coming out of Wall Street.  We should never negotiate with terrorists.

Wall Street would have screamed bloody murder but such measures might have gotten a lot of support from workers including some of the workers on Wall Street.

Alas, Obama did not do this.  So now he is faced with having to do without finance sector money and will have to face the mountain this fall.

I kind of like the way this is playing out.

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17 Responses

  1. The weird thing is that the answers to so many of our problems are easy.

    1. Simple answers to stupid problems:
    2. Replace Electoral College with a Single National Presidential Election … Count all our votes
    3. Replace lying/cheating/theiving Presidential Primaries & Conventions with a National Primary Day …. All Parties have open elections for their candidates.
    4. Replace 401ks with State Pension Plans: Open state employee pension plans to state citizens.

    Also? I LOVED Joe vs The Volcano!

    • I’ve never seen Joe vs The Volcano. Should I dial it up on Netflix?
      BTW, I love your idea for a national primary day. Or maybe even runoff primaries. Yeah, it would be expensive for the states but maybe it would be a whole lot more honest.
      Wait. That will never work. The parties would hate it.

  2. After 8 years of GWB, the democrats were going to win last election pretty much without a fight. The bankers knew Obama was the one who would make the smaller dent in progress made over the previous 8 years, but I believe it was always intended to be a one term deal.

    Generating more wealth means putting the majority of the unemployed back to work in good jobs and feeding back into the economy.

    I’ve heard suggestions that Jeb Bush may well be the top choice for the VP slot.

    • Ugh, another Bush? I don’t think I could handle that.

      • I couldn’t either, but it seems they have a strong foot-hold in the good ol’ boys banking network…wasn’t Preston Bush the one who put that family on the map of great wealth? I’m surprised he didn’t put his hat in the ring for Pres this time around, actually.

    • Jebbie-poo for VP? Would that be a ploy to sicken us into voting for Obama again? Well it won’t work on me. Obama is the more effective evil than Romney and if Obama is re-elected, our Social Security and Medicare will be destroyed. I will tolerate VP Jebbie to lower the chances of losing my Social Security and Medicare.

  3. How do we know the gang-bankers are really not giving the Obama campaign any money? How do we know the gang-bankers aren’t just feigning displeasure to con us into thinking that if they are upset with Obama perhaps there is something in Obama for the rest of us? How do we know the gang-bankers are not smurfing their money into the Obama campaign via millions of little digi-laundered moneybits through millions of fake credit card numbers? Or . . . how do we know the gang-bankers are not giving their money through stood-up arms-length cutouts which then give the money to the Obama campaign?

    • I entertain similar suspicions to RUR’s.

      The 1% (or Malefactors Of Great Wealth, to use an older term), unless they are completely clueless, know they are not popular. Hence, if they actually want Obummer back, they would be shrewd to pick fights with him publicly, so then Obummer can pretend to be a populist champion.

      It all depends on whether or not the 1% are as stupidly myopic as RD thinks them to be. If they are, then RUR and I are overthinking the situation.

      But what if the 1% are actually smarter than that?

      If so, then consider this scenario:

      The 1% found the GOP pachyderm to be their favorite mount for many years, but might the 1990s and 2000s have changed that?

      The 1% might have despised Clinton for his common-folk roots, but his presidency was good for them, and yet those crazy GOPhers were trying constantly to bring him down.

      Then came the Chimperor and Darth Cheney. Sure, they were very good for the 1% in the short term, but they didn’t just screw the pooch, they screwed the whole kennel of pooches, in positions Dr. Ruth never heard of, to the applause of their drooling fanatical followers. Incompetent government is bad even for the 1%.

      The GOP elephant was showing disturbing signs of going rogue, and still is showing such signs. Perhaps the smarter members of the 1% are starting to remember that their German counterparts in the late 1920s thought they could keep control of their useful right-wing fanatics–until the day they found they were wrong.

      Meanwhile, the Dem donkey has been successfully gelded of any troublesome traces of economic liberalism and egalitarianism.

      Perhaps a preponderance of the 1% have decided that the donkey is a safer and more comfortable mount? Perhaps they decided that as early as 2006, and that’s why the Dems began coming back that year?

      Things that make you go “Hmmm…” :mrgreen:

      • They are smart. But probably not the smartest people on earth like they think. But it is the system they have set up for themselves that prevents smartness for intervening on their behalf. Yes, I do think they are myopic, to put it mildly.
        What they are doing is unsustainable and I will predict that they are already waaaaaay over their heads in some troublemaking deal that depends on them getting their way from Obama. If he doesn’t deliver, they’ll transfer their allegiance to Romney. No biggy. And the social issues won’t really affect them anyway.
        If I were the party, I would seriously consider making a ticket change or risk losing it all.
        Now is not the time to cower in fear.

  4. If I were living in Pelosi’s or Hoyers’s district, I would vote against them as well as voting against Obama. They are all conspirators against Social Security and Medicare. (Remember how angry Commander Badgebunny used to get when I linked to Jane Hamsher’s FireDogLake article about the Pelosi conspiracy against Social Security way back then?

    Since I live in Michigan, I will be voting for Big John Dingell the Legacy Paleocrat and Debbie Stabenow. I will be voting against Obama one way or another. The hope is that the D officeholders would not conspire with a President Romney in the same way that they will conspire with a Term Two Obama . . . to shrink Social Security down to one can of cat food per month.

    By the way, I saw some halfway clever acronyms for the real leaders
    of the upper class aggression against us all, the OPOOP for One Percent Of One Percent, and the OPOOPOOP for One Percent Of One Percent Of One Percent. Clunky but perhaps memorable.

    • Where are the independents? For the way things have been going for the past 12 years (more, actually), where are the people who want to change the world? There are leaders in this country who could easily replace the mediocre representation we have. Where are they? Why isn’t anyone out there trying to unseat these R’s and D’s who are rapidly destroying this country? It can’t be because they wouldn’t be able to find a LOT of supporters, because they would.

      • Some people are. Rocky Anderson comes to mind as a name. But the MSM drops a cone of silence over them all. It would take many years of patient frustrating work to get such an effort known to and accepted by many people. Perhaps they will emerge from and through
        organized movements to achieve one thing or another.

        Also, some movements and people have somewhat given up on the
        tilted set-piece battlefield of electoral politics and are working on things like survival economics, economic rebellion, alternative economic platforms on which to build alternative survival lifeboat-shelter societies, etc.

        And also some leadership quality people might not want to get themselves targetted for assassination by well-hidden deep government operatives like Kennedy, King, Kennedy, etc. were. Last winter in a local restaurant I fell into conversation with some OWS-inspired occuppy folk who were going to gather and demonstrate somewhere nearby. I don’t remember all the conversation details but I remember one of the young women noting that a key reason for the “leaderless consesus” structure was to prevent the emergence of and dependence upon leaders who could be assassinated. The others agree. They appeared to me to have absorbed one of the key meanings and basic lessons of recent American history.

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