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The Politics of Personality Disorder

I’ve had a few commenters who think the posts on narcissism and the Dark Triad are interesting but they really wish I wouldn’t bring politics into it.

I’m confused about this.  This is a blog where Democrats in Exile and others can talk about politics and not be shouted down for not adopting the dominant narrative.  So, there’s that.

But more than that, humans are herd animals.  Being in the group is highly desirable.  Being out of the group makes us anxious.  So, if the dominant narrative is shaped by a small evil group of people, to whom no one we know belongs,  who use political rhetoric and religion as dissemination tools, we should be aware of it.  Shouldn’t we?  Isn’t it better to know what techniques may be used to manipulate us to act in a herd like fashion?  And if the people who are manipulating us have severe unchecked personality disorders, which looks more and more likely, isn’t it better to see them than to have them hide behind the masks of authority and holiness?

Now, I’m not saying that I have proof of any of it.  I’m just looking at behaviors that have been growing steadily for about 40 years and the results of those behaviors on all of us and trying to find cause and effect.  In the end, I don’t really care why people behave the way they do as long as they don’t behave badly.  In other words, it’s not interesting to me that a narcissist might have experienced childhood trauma or that a psychopath may have a genetic predisposition.  Not remotely interesting.  Psychologists might be interested in the sources of these personality disorders so that they can nip them in the bud in kids in the future but once those kids become adults, their behaviors are pretty much fixed.

Personality disorders are very difficult to treat. The first step in dealing with a person with a personality disorder is accepting the fact that you can’t change them.  You are not going to be able to teach them to be more empathetic, less selfish, less manipulative etc.  It’s not going to happen because they have no reason to change. Curing these people is almost impossible because they don’t think they have a problem. YOU have a problem.  So, getting inside their heads is not my goal.  My goal is finding a way to react to them in a way that neutralizes their power over us.

What I am concerned with is that we don’t always know when we are being manipulated and exploited, and we often fail to detect patterns of behavior that will lead to us acting against our best interests.  When we start to understand the patterns, we have an opportunity to take action to make it stop.  In other words, if we find that the finance industry is hiring a disproportionate number of psychopaths to play with our money, we can presumably take away the incentive to hire psychopaths or take away our money.  If we find that a bunch of Machiavellians are saturating the airwaves with manipulative language, we might be able to point out the way the manipulation works so that people turn off their radios and cable TV.

If we find that a couple of attention seeking, control freak authoritarians are getting narcissistic supply out of exploiting their kids on a reality show by adopting a super conservative religious lifestyle and parading themselves as holier than thou and then campaigning for a super conservative politician, we should be aware of what they are doing and promoting and what they are trying to accomplish.

Let’s just call it as we see it, shall we?  Let’s not play “these are not the droids you’re looking for” because we don’t want to look at the dark underworld of human interactions only to find our favorite politicians and religious superstars lurking there.

Politics and religion are two very powerful influences on human herds.  We need to make very sure that the people acting as shepherds aren’t coyotes in disguise.

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The Narcissism Epidemic

A brief note before I start: The right has a habit of finding significant trends and memes and then overusing or distorting the meaning of terms in order to desensitize populations that might be getting a clue.  I suspect this is going to happen with the term narcissism. Once it starts to make an impact and the general population to see connections, expect the right wing to start conflating, confusing and overusing.  It’s what they do.  We might assume that we’ve hit a nerve when it happens.

**************************************************************************

Anne Manne is an Australian author who recently gave a talk on the predominance of narcissism in the most unequal cultures.  (See video below) This is a pretty good talk and gives some insight into how narcissistic, low empathy cultures are created, and asks whether those cultures can right themselves before the effects of climate change become irreversible.

We can’t rule out the role of helicopter parenting styles in the epidemic of narcissism.  Both of my kids grew up in an era when children were neither seen nor heard on the streets of our ultra safe New Jersey suburb, though I think it was worse for my younger daughter.  Every kid is scheduled to within an inch of their lives in career enhancing activities and competitive sports.  See Freerangekids for more horror stories about our warped American childhoods and how the culture of “stranger danger” has kept children from exploring their environments, making new friends and, probably, prevented them from developing empathy for people who are not like themselves.  Thank you, Fox News.

She briefly touches on religious and malignant narcissism at the very end of this video when referring to ISIS and says something very insightful about how religious narcissism works.  In essence, when you claim “all good” to yourself, looking down on non-believers as undeserving, the result is the dehumanization of others who do not share your belief.  When that happens, it’s much easier to behead others.  I am immediately reminded of end-times religions that claim that non-believers will be annihilated at the second coming.  And these religions make it quite clear that it doesn’t matter how “good” a non-believer is because “good deeds” do not count.  They are saved by grace alone and that requires surrendering reasoning to pure, unquestioning belief.

As Tony Robinson pointed out in his documentary on The Doomsday Code, this is a dangerous trend because adherents are so caught up in the anticipation of the end times that they may exacerbate bad conditions or allow them to go unchecked.  The resulting spread of inequality and evil reinforces their concept that the “system of things” is spiraling out of control and the second coming is imminent.  Consequently, religious narcissists may be quite content to sacrifice the poor and disenfranchised in the name of bringing on the end.  They may be even more tolerant of rising inequality because it represents another sign of the end.  This is how people like Glenn Beck survive and make millions.  It doesn’t take too much extrapolation to figure out that uber capitalists and corrupt political parties can take advantage of this complacency to grab more resources for themselves and permanently ensconce themselves at the top of the food chain. When the history books are written, the rise of fundamentalist eschatological Christianity is going to be a significant factor in the rise of extreme inequality.

It is also very difficult to combat because the eschatological mindset is almost impervious to reason.  In this respect, fundamentalist eschatological christianity is similar to ISIS.  It has no empathy for the feelings of people unlike itself.

Manne also briefly mentions that Joseph Stiglitz visited Australia recently (maybe it’s this video?) and warned it to not to import American values especially with respect to privatization and capitalism.  Stiglitz apparently thinks we are out of control.  The end timers must be peeing themselves with excitement.

Here is Manne’s talk:

The Origins of Cruelty- another post about narcissism

The world is full of narcissists.  For a period of time during the last century, malignant narcissism appeared to be kept in check.  Our collective consciousness was raised by the after effects of the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War and the Space Age.  Brutality and cruelty happened in other countries, like Vietnam, Bangladesh and Malawi.  South and central America went down the wrong path for several decades and some countries there are still struggling with dictators, corruption and violence.  But for the most part, the world grew away from barbarism.  We held each other accountable.

It started to turn around in the late 70s again, just about the time of the oil embargoes and Ronald Reagan and the “moral” majority.  And now, 80 years after the Great Depression, we’ve reversed much of what was accomplished during the New Deal.  Except for Social Security, the rest of the progressive governmental structures that were created then are hollow shells.  Even the post office is struggling to maintain it’s position as a public service and it is much older than any Depression era program.

We know what happened, we feel its effects, as anyone trying to get a job, working a job and supporting a family knows.  But we don’t know the origins of how it happened.  That is, we don’t know what it is about our human nature that caused our current powerlessness and inequality.

I was watching a video this morning about the dark triad of narcissism, antisocial behavior and borderline personality disorder because I’m getting more and more interested in what the bad guys have been up to.  In that video was another clip from the movie The Spanish Prisoner featuring Steve Martin.  In the clip, a friend of his is telling him how he invented something for a company and has an informal arrangement for compensation and credit.  Martin tells him that the informal arrangement is worthless and that he should have gotten the details down on paper and verified with a lawyer.  The friend is too trusting and then Martin tells him this:

 

We’ve probably had this happen to us at some point in our lives.  For example, it explains why employment has been so stressful lately for many of us, especially temp workers.  A temp worker has no legal rights and the employer has no legal obligations.  In such a situation, it’s easy to take advantage of the temp and treat them cruelly.  In fact, the employer is prompted to be more cruel because the fact that he has no legal obligation makes taking advantage of the worker the smart thing to do.  You’d be a fool to not use your resources to get ahead of your competitors.  But to do so will generate a certain amount of guilt in the employer.  Morally, it’s wrong to exploit a person.  The resolution of this problem is to dehumanize the worker.  As long as the worker is stupid, uneducated, ugly, poor, unpopular or possessing in some other human defect, it is ok to be inconsiderate of them and to take advantage of them.  It should come as no surprise that the number of temp positions has increased steadily in recent years or that many of those in temp positions or insecure part-time positions have to face uncertain hours, sleeplessness, poor pay and undignified behavior from the companies they work for.  This trend will continue until there is law to curtail it.

Let’s look beyond the workforce.  Let’s look at what happened in Ferguson.  The police force has access to a lot of military style weapons and transportation devices.  That equipment costs money, as do the officers themselves.  It all has to be paid for somehow.  The state of Missouri might not be footing the bill.  Let’s get the money from people who are easier to shake down.  No one cares about African Americans.  It would be stupid of us to not take advantage of this situation.  And they deserve to be treated badly.  They wouldn’t be living in Ferguson if they weren’t so stupid, shiftless, lazy and violent thugs.

How about firemens’ pension funds?  Stock analysts, money managers and bankers are under no obligation to protect their clients’ funds more than lining their own pockets.  It would be stupid for Wall Street firms to not work both sides of a deal.  Those firemen are just a bunch of meat puppets represented by fools.  They deserve to be treated badly for not being smart enough to go to Harvard and Princeton and then go to work on Wall Street.

And let’s think about this in political terms.  The reason why no bankers go to jail or are held accountable is because each grievous infraction goes to a negotiated settlement.  One by one, the legal obligations that the banks and large corporations have towards the rest of us are stripped away.  It is perfectly understandable that these businesses are going to push the envelope and demand all they can get.  But we have seen from past presidencies that it is not the norm for the executive branch to crumble in the face of stiff resistance.  Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt took on forces as just as powerful and determined and did not succumb.  So, we can only imagine what level of contempt there must be in the administration towards average Americans that would allow them to assuage their guilt.

This is what I have been referring to when I said back in 2008 that if the Democrats did not resist the voting irregularities, sexism and demonization of half its party during the campaign, that it would not have standing with the people who forced themselves on us.  It’s also why those of us at The Confluence rejected the demonization and dehumanization of Sarah Palin.  We don’t have to like her politics to see that when the party activists went down that road, they were engaging in a thoughtless barbarism that had the potential to seep into other aspects of their politics and turn them into tools of malignant narcissists.

Anyway, I go on too long again.  I just thought it was an interesting clip that describes clearly why we have laws and regulations and why this country flourished when we had consent of the governed to constrain our baser natures and why we should oppose people who try to get around those laws and legal obligations.

Too many of us have been fooled into thinking we don’t need them.

Narcissists, scapegoats and the golden child

A few months ago, I said I would be revisiting the topic of narcissists.  It might have been Phillip Zimbardo’s book, The Lucifer Effect, that lead me to read more on narcissism and malignant narcissism.  Or maybe it was one of those moments that we all have from time to time when something we see that is out of focus suddenly snaps into place.  I had interactions with many narcissists last year in every possible area of my life.  The one at work was particularly awful. But whatever it was that finally clued  me in, I realized how narcissism has been allowed to run amok.

We all have the capacity for narcissism. Most healthy human beings have to be somewhat narcissistic to survive.  In this economic environment, we have all been pushed a bit further on the spectrum because a false sense of scarcity has been created and we are all competing for the same piece of the pie.  It pays to be more selfish, to project more confidence and talent than we actually have, and to adopt an “every woman for herself” attitude.  But most of us do not have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a way of seeing the rest of the world as merely actors in the play we wrote ourselves and are directing.

Here are the characteristics of people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD):

  • A grandiose sense of self-importance (may be shown as an exaggeration of abilities and talents, expectation that he or she will be seen as superior to all others).
  • Is obsessed with him- or herself.
  • Goals are almost always selfish and self-motivated.
  • Has troubles with healthy, normal relationships.
  • Becomes furious if criticized.
  • Has fantasies of unbound success, power, intelligence, love, and beauty.
  • Believes that he or she is unique and special, and therefore should only hang out with other special, high-status people.
  • Requires extreme admiration for everything.
  • Feels entitled – has unreasonable expectations of special treatment.
  • Takes advantage of others to further his or her own needs.
  • Has zero empathy – cannot (or will not) recognize the feelings of others.
  • May be envious of others or believe that others are envious of him or her.
  • Behaves arrogantly, haughtily.

– See more at: http://www.bandbacktogether.com/adult-children-of-Narcissistic-parents-resources/#sthash.HtiA1zJT.dpuf

Based on the number of politically tone deaf statements from the plutocrats about how the rest of us envy their success, it has become painfully obvious that there is a surplus of narcissists at the top. But you might be surprised by how many people with NPD hide behind religion.  A very religious person is very hard to criticize and our social structure gives them a convenient cover screen.  How could a person who praises the lord and loves Jesus (and lets you know about it all. the. time.) be selfish, manipulative and malicious? It’s a brilliant place to be if you want control but want to come off looking sweet and pious while simultaneously believing that you are superior to others because you have The Truth.  Many cult-like and high control fundamentalist religious organizations encourage this kind of narcissism in their converts. The Duggar family is a perfect example of this mindset.

And then there is the right wing noise machine that seems to encourage a base narcissism in its target audience.  The unlucky “deserve” what they get while the rich “deserve” what they’ve gotten.  And what’s wrong with saying things that are racist?  You’re allowed to be a racist if you want to be.  (I’m just paraphrasing the incredible things I’m hearing from the Fox News crowd lately.  Personally, I think racism is revolting in thought, word and deed.) Putting people down to make yourself look superior is a hallmark of a narcissist, although I doubt that these same Fox News watchers would be as comfortable saying it’s Ok to be anti-semitic.  Just a guess.

The relationships that develop in a family poisoned by a narcissistic parent illustrate on a micro scale what can be projected to a wider audience in the political sphere.  In a family when one of the parents has narcissistic personality disorder, the children in the family are frequently pitted against one another.  The NPD parent designates one of the children as the scapegoat.  The role of the scapegoat may rotate but it’s usually one particular child that is targeted.  This child is usually the more sensitive child, the one who doesn’t play the game and flatter the narcissist, the truth teller.  When the NPD parent injures this child using emotional manipulation and encouraging the others in the family to “mob” (bullying by group), the NPD parent gets a whiff of narcissistic supply.  They get off on control and their ability to make someone else feel inferior, to sabotage and limit their success. The goal of the NPD parent is to make the scapegoat bend to her will by using ostracism, mockery, malicious gossip and alienation.  Yeah, imagine living with that.

The golden child, on the other hand, can do no wrong.  No matter how much the kid screws up, the NPD parent will make excuses.  It’s not his fault.  The problem started before he came along.  He needs time to mature.  He will never suffer the consequences of his behavior nor will there be any criticism of his limitations.  Indeed, any minor accomplishment is made to look magnificent.

And then there are the flying monkeys.  Flying monkeys are the siblings, and others, who act as the hit men for the NPD parent.  They are sent on missions to obtain information from the scapegoat that gets reported back to the NPD parent.  The parent then uses that information to spread rumors, gossip and malicious mockery through his or her own actions or the actions of the flying monkeys.  The gossip may contain a hint of truth but this is usually blown out of proportion.  The more voices that propagate the gossip, the greater the negative effect on the scapegoat.

So, here’s my leap from micro to macro and what we will be subjected to for the next two years until the presidential election.  The narcissists are in charge.  They control the horizontal and the vertical.  All the moneys are belong to them and they are determined to extract every penny of what they think they are owed.  They will do this by conscripting the US government to cover their debts even if it means impoverishing the tax base.  They don’t see labor as consisting of real people.  Labor is a resource to be used when it is needed and discarded when it is not.

I’d like to use the term exploitative profit mining to describe the effect of unfettered narcissistic capitalism on the general public and predict that this will continue to result in economic instability and eventually, the dangerous undermining of democratic governments.  The early and mid 20th century saw the negative fallout of this kind of behavior with WWI, the Great Depression and WWII.  I’d hate to think we are going to have to live through those kinds of upheavals again but the rise of ultra right wing and nationalistic parties in Europe in the wake of austerity, as well as the political chaos caused by the Tea Party fanatics here in the US have me very worried that we’re headed for trouble.

Over the past 6 years, we have become all too familiar with the typical behaviors and attitudes of narcissists.  Do not look to them for any sense of empathy.  They do not possess it and the only mechanisms for keeping them in check have been abandoned at this point.  Check out any review of Tim Geithner’s book, Stress Test, if you want to know what he,  the lieutenant of the narcissists, did on their behalf.  Keep in mind the characteristics of narcissists as you read it.

Their most significant triumph to date has been to get their golden child elected.  The scapegoat is Hillary Clinton.  Look at any comment section of a left leaning blog and you will find this is true.  Obama inherited the financial crisis.  That’s why the economy sucks.  The Republicans hate Obama.  That’s why the ACA is FUBAR.  Obama didn’t start the war in Iraq.  So, it’s not his fault if the void we left when we pulled out of Iraq has destabilized the country.

(Sidenote: Dexter Filkins of the New Yorker was interviewed on Fresh Air yesterday.  In the last 4 minutes of the interview, Filkins lays out the culpability of the Obama administration with respect to the current crisis in Iraq.  It’s not pretty. Expect Filkins to suffer some scapegoating for truth telling about the golden child’s “accomplishments”.)

Hillary can do nothing right.  Everything she says is scrutinized in order to put the worst possible spin on it.  She’s not perfect, that’s for sure, and right now, unless I see her move to the left boldly to take on the exploitative profit miners, it will be hard for me to justify voting for her.  But, golly gee, nobody is as bad as the left seems to think Hillary is.  According to the left, she and her husband wrecked welfare and imposed an unconstitutional piece of legislation on gay people while single handedly destroying Glass-Steagall.  Then they wickedly danced around the fire while chanting incantations, laughing evilly at the suffering of others and killing the bees.  It’s an image of the Clintons that completely cuts out the crazy Whitewater scandal, the crazy Monica scandal, the hours of congressional hearings and special prosecutions over billing records, and the millions of dollars that they and their friends and everyone who ever worked for them were forced to spend on what turned out to be harassment suits.  This during the Newt Gingrich years.  Remember Newt??

But it doesn’t matter.  Hillary Clinton is facing flying monkeys on the left as well as the right.  And while we can’t do anything about the flying monkeys on the right, I just have to wonder if the flying monkeys on the left have thought this through.  The books I’ve read say that the flying monkeys are not always aware of what they are doing.  The narcissists controlling them make them feel included, like they’re one of the club.  And it’s fun to get that sip of narcissistic oxygen that comes with watching the scapegoat flailing and not succeeding.

There’s a danger to this though.  If Hillary truly is the last great hope of the left in 2016, and she sees that the narcissists and flying monkeys on the left are determined to see her fail, then her only choice to win the White House is to appeal to the disaffected voters of 2008 who abandoned the Democrats for the Tea Party.  That wouldn’t be me.  I’m still in exile.  I’m talking about the more socially conservative Democrats who felt snubbed by Obama and his supporters writing them off, calling them religious, gun toting, bitter knitters.  She’s got to get her votes from somewhere and if the crunchy lefties and snobby lefties are going to get prodded by the narcissists to go after her non-stop from now until 2016, then she’s going to have to appeal to the Reagan Democrats.  At this point, the left is all but conceding that she is the inevitable candidate (why they say this is anyone’s guess but it’s out there).  And if it is true that the left is finally, reluctantly, going to get behind Hillary, it’s going to be undermining its own candidate if it keeps telling the world how loathsome it thinks she is.

That’s something to think about.

On the other hand, Hillary has to come to terms with her scapegoat role.  Once you have become the scapegoat, there is virtually nothing you can do about changing it. Defensiveness doesn’t do much good. The scapegoating will continue until the narcissist dies or the flying monkeys get a clue as to how and why they are being used.  As long as the flying monkeys are getting off on what they’re doing, finding it successful, and the golden child remains protected, don’t expect anything to change.  The scapegoat has a choice.  Go along with it or divorce the whole family.  You can never appease the narcissist enough to be your own person.

Narcissistic Presidents and Other Tales (Open Thread)

The previous post is getting a bit full so I thought I’d start another. Here’s a fun find from Science News:

College students who exhibit narcissistic tendencies are more likely than fellow students to cheat on exams and assignments, a new study shows.

The results suggested that narcissists were motivated to cheat because their academic performance functions as an opportunity to show off to others, and they didn’t feel particularly guilty about their actions.

“Narcissists really want to be admired by others, and you look good in college if you’re getting good grades,” said Amy Brunell, lead author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University at Newark.

“They also tend to feel less guilt, so they don’t mind cheating their way to the top.”

Narcissism is a trait in which people are self-centered, exaggerate their talents and abilities and lack empathy for others, Brunell said.

“Narcissists feel the need to maintain a positive self-image and they will sometimes set aside ethical concerns to get what they want.”

Sound like any presidents we know?

This is an open thread.

Obama: Financial Crisis is all about me.

Yesterday at Obama’s appearance before the Business Roundtable (h/t msclutterbuck in comments),

Richard Parsons, chairman of beleaguered Citigroup Inc., asked if Obama could offer some help in a national battle “between confidence and fear.”

“A smidgen of good news and suddenly everything is doing great. A little bit of bad news and ooohh , we’re down on the dumps,” Obama said. “And I am obviously an object of this constantly varying assessment. I am the object in chief of this varying assessment.”

“I don’t think things are ever as good as they say, or ever as bad as they say,” Obama added. “Things two years ago were not as good as we thought because there were a lot of underlying weaknesses in the economy. They’re not as bad as we think they are now.”

Oh really? Does Dear Leader know about the Obamavilles popping up around the country?

Tent city, Sacramento, CA

Tent city, Sacramento, CA

The sea of tents along Sacramento’s American River is growing by the day. Newcomers just pick a spot and prop up a tent.

“Anywhere from 20 to 50 people a-week are showing up out here that just became homeless,” said one resident.

Does he know that people in Elkart, IN have been reduced to begging for food handouts?

Canned tomatoes for the hungry in Elkhart

Canned tomatoes for the hungry in Elkhart

Roughly 1,600 familes picked up food and other items sent by a charity to economically distressed Elkhart, Ind., which has an unemployment rate of 18.3 percent.

The 13 semitrailers that came to Elkhart carried more than $2.1 million worth of food, enough to help sustain about 5,200 families for a week. In addition to those who picked up supplies Tuesday, Feed the Children arranged for shipments to 3,600 northern Indiana families.

So no, Barack, it really isn’t all about you.

Meanwhile, Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner is heading a staff of one and quite a few people are asking why Obama isn’t finding him any help.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is supposed to have 17 top deputies helping him run his massive department. But none have been confirmed [1].

“The secretary of the treasury is sitting there without a deputy, without any undersecretaries, without any, as far as I know, assistant secretaries responsible in substantive areas at a time of very severe crisis,” is how President Barack Obama’s economic adviser and former Fed chairman Paul Volcker put it a couple weeks ago [1]. He called it a “shameful” state of affairs.

To hear Treasury officials tell it [2], there’s no problem. Geithner hasn’t been short on new plans or new billions for the financial sector in his first weeks on the job, they say. And he still has time for his morning workout [3].

Well thank goodness Timmy can still find time for his morning workout. Maybe he and Barack should get together at the gym and come up with some names for those Treasury appointments? After all, even after they are chosen, they have to be confirmed by the Senate. And maybe they should try finding some nominees who weren’t in on causing the financial crisis in the first place–that might cut down on the vetting problems.

Frankly, I find it embarrassing that the U.S. response to the global crisis is becoming a laughing stock among financial experts. And why aren’t the phones being answered at Treasury? The Brits have been complaining about this for awhile now.

Check out this rant from Willem Buiter’s blog at the Financial Times.

Since the Obama administration took over on January 20, the US Treasury has effectively been out to lunch. As widely reported (see e.g. this account in the Financial Times), Sir Gus O’Donnell (as cabinet secretary the top UK civil servant) has attacked the “absolute madness’ of the US spoils system, where a new Federal administration replaces the entire top stratum of the civil service with new officials possessing the right political connections and leanings. Quite a few of these top officials need to be confirmed before they can start working. This can take months. Many of the new officials have no political, government or administrative experience and spend most of their first months in office trying to figure out where the washroom is instead of designing and implementing policy.

Buiter says the “spoils system” in the U.S. government which allows officials to appoint their unqualified cronies to positions that require real expertise has led to the “emasculation of US macroecononomic policy making.”

The price of the US spoils system has been high, if the quality of economic policy making in Washington DC by the Obama administration is anything to go by. The Obama administration’s handling of the financial crisis and the recession-verging-on-depression has been surprisingly fumbling and kak-handed. The economic team should have hit the ground running following a lengthy transition period and the appointment to the top positions of experienced economic policy makers like Tim Geithner, Larry Summers, Peter Orszag and Paul Volcker. But there is little evidence of coherent teamwork. Instead we are treated to repeated examples of the Unfinished Symphony (Geithner) or of A Night at the Improv (Summers).

In the US Treasury, Timothy Geithner has come up with a number of half-baked plans, under the grand umbrella of the Financial Stability Plan of February 10. These plans are not worked out to the point that they can even be evaluated properly, they are not costed properly and, except for the money left from the TARP and the funds approved by the Congress for the US$ 787 bn fiscal stimulus plan, they are not funded.

That the half-worked-out fiscal-financial rescue plans of the US government are not funded is due to a deeper flaw in the US political economy than the spoils system. It reflects the extreme polarisation of American society and of the polity. This may have started as early as the Vietnam War years, accelerated during the Reagan administrations and exploded during the George W. Bush administrations. Almost any departure from the status-quo is subject to de-facto veto from some well-organised and well-funded special interest coalition. During times of war and economic crisis, policy paralysis is costly.

But the fact that the economic plans of the administration are only half worked out is due to the fact that, except for the Treasury Secretary himself, the entire top of the Treasury is vacant. it is even possible that Geithner has to make his own coffee, a task normally delegated to a Deputy Secretary. This is an insane situation that no self-respecting country should allow to continue.

With Geithner under-supported and over-worked, Larry Summers, Director of the National Economic Council, has jumped into the macroeconomic policy fray with gusto, but not, unfortunately, with the benefit and backing of careful analysis.

Whew! That’s a scathing indictment if I ever saw one! Tim Geithner’s and Larry Summers’ ears must be burning. But I suppose if Obama read it, he’d just continue to preen and think it’s all about him. But while he’s focusing on “me, me, me,” the U.S. economy is crashing and burning. Is there anyone who can talk some sense into our narcissist in chief?