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Sunday: “They think we are chumps”

Frank Jones from Bloom County prophesies in 1988.

Frank Jones from Bloom County prophesies in 1988.

Bill Moyers is on my $#@% list for becoming a toe sucking Obamaphile last year but he’s had some good interviews lately.  Last week, he had Glenn Greenwald and Jay Rosen on who shook their fingers at the press for being in the pockets of the bipartisan baddies while not acknowledging their own role in electing Barack Obama.  It’s too soon to say whether they’ve had an epiphany and are just too embarrassed to admit it.  Then, last Friday, Moyers interviewed Simon Johnson of the Peterson Group, the same econ group that employs Japan’s lost decade expert Adam Posen.

Johnson pulled back the curtain on the Obama administration’s economic team.  In short, it it chock full of financial industry insiders.  He also shares a short clip of someone from JP Morgan who is discussing bonuses.  Essentially, they are just going to change the name from “bonuses” to “retention awards”.  See?  Doesn’t that sound better?  Those bankers and brokers are not getting bonuses.  Nooooo.  They are getting awards for staying on.  I mean, it’s obvious.  No one in their right mind would want to work in this poisonous environment so we have to reward these people for sticking it out.

Johnson also critiques Geithner’s baliout plan and specifically his speech.  He praises Geithner for recognizing that the bankers are at fault and should be ashamed of themselves.  But then Geithner delivers the equivalent of a slap on the wrist to the bankers by suggesting (because no one really knows what the plan is yet) that he isn’t going to nationalize the banks.  Nationalizing is such an unAmerican concept that no one wants to utter the word.  We are trapped by our own cultural mythology.  Or are we?  The fact is that nationalizing has the biggest downside to the people most culpable for the demise of the financial industry in the first place – the bankers.  But we can’t do it for fear that we will be commies.  How conveeeeeenient.

So, Geithner’s speech was the equivalent of Bloom County’s Frank Jones catching Oliver Wendell Jones, his genius hacker kid, zeroing out his electrcity bill at the utility company and then “grounding” him by telling him he can’t have any beets for dessert. Johnson suggests that the faux outrage plays well in Peoria but really, a “small evil group to which no one we know belongs”  has its grip firmly on the Obama Administration’s junk.  This oligarchy is going to make sure that nothing bad happens to the bankers, thus all but guaranteeing a Japan style lost decade for the rest of us.  Yes, they think we are chumps.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  Greenwald may be a former Obama chump himself, however lukewarm, but he’s right to be alarmed that the left has boxed itself into a corner.  It so bought into the Obamaphenomenon and so disabled its own leverage that it is incapable of exerting any power on Obama now.  It can’t hold Obama’s feet to the fire.

But *we* can.

And we must.  Because Social Security is now starting to get the attention of the “reformers”.  Those same people who had such incredible success with credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations are looking around for another pool of money where they can practice their own version of voodoo with new and groovy “instruments”.  We don’t want that.

If the progressive blogosphere is now sober and alarmed, I have a proposition for it.  Now is the time when we put aside our differences.  We will try to turn the other cheek and put aside the fact that you guys acted like f%^*ing @$$holes towards us for the past year.  If you are fully alarmed and ready to do some real activism, it is time we had some REAL unity and coordinated our messages.  We can offer amnesty, so long as you acknowledge to yourselves that you were mislead about us.  There was a reason why the split was engineered in the party.  It is to keep us from getting enough critical mass to take the oligarchical bastards on.  The way back to power is to first admit that you were had.  You don’t have to do this publicly.  I’m sure you know what barriers to success you have to remove.

It is also time to face up to the fact that Obama is owned by the bankers.  That was the deal he struck with them.  They paid him mucho dinero to have a seat(s) at his cabinet table.  Saving the country and the taxpayers is the right thing to do.  I’ve been picking up on a narrative that says Americans are responsible for what happened by consuming too much and saving too little.  But there are also reports that Americans aren’t spending their way out of the recession like they should.  Let’s admit what this really is.  This is like Jerry Fallwell blaming the sinners of New Orleans for Katrina or like any endtime group blaming the culture for not being pious enough.  If you want rain, you have to not offend the gods.  If you’re facing catastrophe, you must have forgotten your burnt offerings.

I don’t like this narrative.  It’s like blaming the victim and as long as the “victim” feels guilty, he will accept his “punishment” because he will feel like he deserved it.  Oh sure, there are some people out there who spent more than they should have and gambled away their home equity or got over their heads in credit card debt. But there are many, MANY more people who did none of these things.  They contributed to their 401ks diligently and didn’t take on more debt than they should have and they are still going to have to suffer the consequences of the finance industry’s failures.   Wages have been essentially flat since the 70’s when adjusted for inflation even though the American worker has been more productive.  It’s time we started to put the blame where it belongs: on the people who created this system where you now need two jobs to support a family of four.  The bottom has fallen out of the social safety net.  Families are one paycheck away from insolvency through no fault of their own except that they have been snookered into voting for Republicans over and over again for the past 30 years.

So, if you Obots are getting alarmed, fighting this narrative is one of the first places to start.  The American taxpayer should not be forced to sacrifice anymore.  The American taxpayer has to stop being passive about the gods who are punishing them for their imaginary sins.  It is time that we stop paying for the mistakes of others.  If the banking and finance industry is in trouble for taking risks and leveraging themselves beyond all reason, it’s time that they paid for those transgressions and stopped foisting the bill onto the hapless  taxpayer.

Your job, if you choose to accept it, is to empower American taxpayers and inflame them with righteous indignation.  It’s time to tell them they are NOT chumps.  We didn’t all just fall off the turnip truck.  It’s time to help them understand what is happening because knowledge is power.  It’s time to pull back the curtain and point to the real culprits, even if you just helped to get them elected.

Are you with us?

Monday: Barn doors and horses

Hat tip to Alegre’s Corner for this very instructive video of Glenn Greenwald and Jay Rosen on Bill Moyer’s Journal recently:

Now, technically, everything they are saying is correct.  In order for Obama to not catch hell about any of the things he does, he has to assume that the DC Villagers have some kind of autistic disorder that makes them freak out whenever their routine is changed.  The Villagers are all about anti-Change!  But the Kool-Ade drinkers should have picked up on this paradox last election season: why would the Obama, the Change! agent, become the “media darling” of the Village when the last thing the Village wants is for its cheese to be moved?  And as much as I enjoyed Greenwald, Rosen and Moyers laying it all out so succinctly, I’ve got to wonder why it is that they just now noticed that they’ve been had because all three of them were Obamaphiles to one extent or another during the election season.

Getting back to Obama and his relationship to the Villagers, he had to have reassured them in some way that their cushy, insular, courtier lives would not be disturbed.  Maybe he appealed to the civil rights era crowd who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s who are now old enough to run everything, ie, older baby boomers, who were yearning for their lost youth.  Or MAYBE it was the fact that he took all that money from the bankers and investment class types that gave them the reassurance that he wasn’t that different from Republicans.

But one thing is absolutely for sure.  He always looked like a shmoozing, corporate ladder climbing, ambitious, ass-kissing guy whose only goal was getting to the top.  People in the corporate world know the type.  They spend most of their working lives getting to be best buds with the guy two levels above them until they have sweet talked themselves into their manager’s position.  They are ruthless manipulators who know how to get others to do the work for them while they spend their time scheming.  When they finally get appointed to their next rung, no one below them is happy.  It’s not that they’re mean bosses.  It’s just that they don’t know their jobs and they tend to make things harder for the people they manage.  Their direct reports just pray they get promoted out of their jobs and let everyone go back to doing their jobs without interference.

This is Obama.  He’s a shmoozer type.  He’s now the president but he has no idea what that entails.  He doesn’t come from a political family so he doesn’t have a daddy who can appoint people to do the heavy lifting.  He doesn’t have a coherent political philosophy.  He’s doing the bi-partisan thing not because he has to keep the Villagers from shrieking.  A good president would get things done during the cacophony.  He’s doing it because he wants to stay on the right side of the guys who footed the bill for the election so he can get their help when he runs for a second term.  That’s why everything is on the table to be negotiated away.  When you don’t have a political conscience, it’s easy to make those kinds of deals.  The unfortunate thing about the way Obama is going about his job is that he isn’t bothering to make nice with the Congressional leadership of his own party and he is giving the impression that the party is at war with itself- which it is.  But giving that impression at a time like this is deadly because the American people are scared $#@!less and it adds to their general anxiety.  When people are scared and anxious, they tend to get stirred to action.

Greenwald, Rosen and Moyers all recommend that the Obama grassroots start holding his feet to the fire.  I hate to break it to them but the time for smoking tootsies was last summer before Obama voted for that damn FISA bill.  But the Obots gave him a pass.  It would have been great if they had demanded more knowledge of the job and less committment to process from him.  But they let that slide too.  And those of us who were insisting on a competent, knowledgeable, experienced leader instead were called racists by the likes of the Moyers types who insisted on living in the past.

Well, I’m sure these three gentlemen will figure it all out without any help from the rest of us.