Yes We Can’t

Thomas Frank has ended his tenure as the token dirty fucking hippie at the Wall Street Journal to write full-time for Harper’s, apparently so the Journal can devote more space to publishing more encomiums to rich motherfuckers and other parasitic scum, like this piece of shit from professional sycophant Karl Rove, who apparently will spend the rest of his life trying to justify the presidency of colossal fuck-up and sociopath George W. Bush.

In his last column (available to subsrcibers only, so as to protect small children and billionaires from being frightened by the truth) for Rupert Murdoch’s “Plutocracy Today,” Frank looks back at what promised to be a forward-looking beginning to a new political and economic paradigm, and which has devolved into more of the same old shit:

It was an awful time, but for someone in my situation there was also – please pardon the expression – hope to go along with the disaster.  We were descending further into the worst recession I had ever seen, but at least we were finally going to be done with the farcical intellectual and political consensus of the preceding decades.

Never again, I thought, would journalists fall over one another to flatter CEOs, nor would pundits build careers by finding clever ways to equate the workings of markets to democracy itself.  Management theorists would cease to be public intellectuals, and the political advice of stock pickers would henceforth be treated like the toxic sewage it clearly was.

(Pause for rueful, sardonic laughter.)

“The market god has failed,” I wrote in this space in February 2009, and I thought its flop augured not only a massive reconfiguring of the relationship between investment banks and the rest of society but a complete overturning of the comfortable assumptions of the pundit class.

Of course, as we saw, the only change delivered was that of degree, and not kind:

Yes, that new president and his partisans in Congress managed to pass an enormous health-care bill, but only after making sure that the big institutional players were on board and that the new law followed a business-friendly prototype.  Then, a halfhearted stab at re-regulating Wall Street, and the audacity tank was just about dry.

As the right howled “socialism,” President Obama took pains to demostrate his loyalty to the exhausted free-market faith.  On trade issues and matters of economic staffing, he loudly signalled continuity with the discredited past.  On the all-important issue of regulatory misbehavior – a natural for good-government types – he has done nothing.

So, thanks to a low-key president and a party content to merely appear competent in contrast to the crazies on the other side, the crazies ended up getting all the ink, and all the attention from the serious thinkers in the media, who took all of the transformative rhetoric, digested it, and shat out the same old sorry narrative:

Today it’s two years on, and nobody has changed the water in the fish tank, as a friend of mine likes to say.  Thomas Friedman of the New York Times still burbles about theories of creativity that were management cliches 10 years ago.  The Washington Post prosecutes its undeclared war on Social Security by having former TARP czar Neel Kashkari explain why banks had to be bailed out but “entitlements must be cut.”  The need to balance the federal budget is almost universally thought to be urgent.  And bipartisanship still intoxicates the pundit mind with its awesome majesty.

On Wall Street, the road to hell is still lined with bonuses.  And Washington feels the same as ever.  The prosperous, well-educated people still tote their yoga mats around town, line up outside the special cupcake shops, and listen to NPR talk show hosts welcome the next generation of boring centrists into the glorious circle of the right-thinking.  The lobbyists still gather at the tasteful restaurants du jour, doing their work on behalf of the forgotten men of the uppermost one percent.

It was probably too much to expect corporate-owned media outlets to change anything about how they viewed the phony trials and tribulations of the upper crusties as more important than the actual pain suffered by the rest of us, and how they filtered everything through the lens of “what’s good for the rich is by definition good for America.”  But I expected more from a Democratic President and a 60-vote majority Senate than the half-assed attempts to sorta, kinda help out the unkempt masses while not extracting too high a price from our betters.  I expected, at least, that some promises would be kept.

Instead, we get a White House press secretary who, frustrated by attacks from lunatics on the right, decides to lambaste the “professional left:

Gibbs said the professional left is not representative of the progressives who organized, campaigned, raised money and ultimately voted for Obama.

Progressives, Gibbs said, are the liberals outside of Washington “in America,” and they are grateful for what Obama has accomplished in a shattered economy with uniform Republican opposition and a short amount of time.

Well, I’ll be an ungrateful asshole.

Larry Berman, an expert on the presidency and a political science professor at the University of California-Davis, said he has been surprised that liberals aren’t more cognizant of the pragmatism Obama has had to employ to pass landmark reforms.

“The irony, of course, is that Gibbs’s frustration reflects the fact that the conservative opposition has been so effective at undermining the president’s popular approval,” Berman said.

“And from Gibbs’s perspective, and the White House perspective, they ought to be able to catch a break from people who, in their view, should be grateful and appreciative.”

I don’t know about you, but I always love it when people tell me I should be “grateful” and “appreciative” for everything I’ve been given, and to stop kvetching so damn much.  And of course, that any complaints I have about the shortcomings of Obama policies on the economy – most importantly, pushing too small of a stimulus, not doing enough for the long-term unemployed, and not doing shit about the foreclosure crisis – are just energizing and enabling the snakepit of lunatics that makes up the modern-day Republican Party.  But then, they don’t really need the help, since they have all the energy and enthusiasm on their side.  Frank again:

The real audacity has all been on the other side.  Many Republicans chose to respond to the crisis not by renouncing the consensus faith of the last 30 years but by doubling down on it, calling for more deregulation, more war on government.

That they have partially succeeded with such a strategy in these years of financial crisis, mine disasters, and oil spills is testimony to their political brilliance – and to Democratic dysfunction.  As is the burgeoning populist movement that now stands beside the GOP, transforming anger over unemployment into anger over the auto bailout and the good pensions enjoyed by public workers.

Yes, Republicans have been brilliant at channelling incoherent, populist anger at banksters, mortgage brokers and other Wall Street scum into astroturfed rage at gays, unworthy minorities and pampered public union members.  But Democrats have helped out by not pushing back forcefully, and by not going for the biggest bang for the buck possible when it came to the stimulus, healthcare reform, and financial reform, and subsequently being able to proudly tell the American people that they had reversed the course of 30 years of Reagonomics warfare on the middle and working classes.  Instead, they tell us we should be appreciative of all the half-assed reform, and grateful that Sarah Palin isn’t a heart attack away from the presidency.  Believe me, I’m grateful for small favors, but as the song goes, is that all there is?

This entry was posted in Douchebags on Parade, Eat the Rich, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Hippie Punching, It's the Stupid Economy, You Assholes. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Yes We Can’t

  1. Sharon Brown says:


    sorry for capslock but now i can breathe again.

    ignore my other comment please.glad you’re back.

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