Occasionally, someone like President Barack Obama will say something in public that intimates that Wall Street bankers and wealthy CEOs are not, ultimately, paragons of virtue.
The media loves this. On those occasions where the President isn't being a complete suck-up to the "meritocracy," they can usually be depended upon to completely lose their heads. "Oh my stars and garters! Did the President say the words 'fat cat?' To say something so mildly critical of people who nearly destroyed the economy!"
Their reflexive reaction is based on two things. First, they enjoy the horse-race aspect of it all, as Obama has to go hat in hand to the same wealthy financiers to ask them, "Would you please fund my reelection bid?" And second, the media has all but given up attempting to cover the lives of ordinary Americans. The victims of the recession are nothing more than abstract, bit players in a melodrama between the rich and powerful.
As everyone knows by now, back in 2008, the U.S. went from having an "economy" to having "not an economy." Wall Street's casino, over-leveraged to the gills on a gigantic web of derivative bets made on junk assets, finally collapsed in a heap, sending untold wealth to money heaven and plunging a nation of ordinary people into a hellscape of seemingly-permanent unemployment.
But while they guy who tagged the branch of his local Citibank with the words "YOU SUCK" was probably handcuffed and thrown in the clink, the people who did all the irresponsible destruction of an entire nation's future have basically gotten off scot free.
There's a new regulatory package, commonly referred to as "Dodd-Frank," that isn't so much a set of toothsome regulations as it is a set of somewhat earnest gums, and it's more or less held as an article of faith among lawmakers who are in the thrall of financial sector lobbyists -- and their friends on the Washington Post editorial board -- that having Elizabeth Warren head up an agency that informs consumers about what's in the fine print of credit card agreements is the most radical suggestion that has ever been made.
So, yesterday, at a news conference, Obama reiterated his desire to raise revenue by restoring some old tax rates on hyper-wealthy people, who afforded it just fine in the 1990's and who have largely been the beneficiary of ordinary citizens pledging their tax money to keep the free market in existence through various bailouts. Obama also pledged to restrain the tax-hike cudgel against middle-class Americans.
This is hardly controversial -- poll after poll indicates that this is precisely what America wants Obama to do. (That it wasn't done a long time ago is an entirely different story of incompetence and unforced errors.) Also, Obama said something about ending a tax break for corporate jet use.
Politico's Ben White is going to "drive the day" by telling people that this was all some sort of "head-shaker"!
HEAD SHAKER: BIZ BASHING RHETORIC RETURNS - Fairly or not, corporate America continues to disdain the Obama administration following two huge regulatory bills (health care reform and Dodd-Frank) that will increase compliance costs and, in the case of banks, make doing business significantly more difficult. So it seemed odd to hear the President -- who is regularly said to be mending fences with the corporate world --- lapse back into business-bashing rhetoric at his press conference.
See what I mean? It's surprising that Obama is taking the side of ordinary people! Doesn't Obama know that ordinary people have no money and can't fill his campaign coffers? But let's get into all the "business bashing."
From the presser: "Keep in mind that the business community is always complaining about regulations. When unemployment is at 3 percent and they're making record profits, they're going to still complain about regulations because, frankly, they want to be able to do whatever they think is going to maximize their profits."
That's "business bashing?" There is nothing controversial in that statement whatsoever. Businesses do complain about regulation. They do contend that regulations restrain profits. Is it an insult, now, to point out the literal, bland truths about things? If that's "bashing," then I'd like to formally apologize to Michael Jordan for ever contending that he scored of lot of points in basketball, and won championships for the Chicago Bulls. I'm terribly sorry! Didn't mean to "bash" you for attesting to the fact that you accomplished precisely what you set out to do!
White says, "It’s certainly fine to think these things and there is undoubtedly truth to them." Oh, well, thank you, Ben White! Everybody! It's okay to "think" this, because they are "undoubtedly true." Don't say it out loud, though.
He continues: "But at time when the President desperately needs companies to start hiring, going out in public and calling corporate executives a bunch of amoral whiners is not going to help and is only going to reinforce the already widely held belief that the President simply does not believe in or trust the profit motive."
Well, I don't see the words "amoral whiners" anywhere in the news conference transcript, so Ben, you'd better watch what you say about people. It's only okay to "think those things," buddy.
As for "trusting the profit motive," well, let me hit you with some recent tragic events:
From NPR, May 29, 2011:
Federal mine disaster investigators disclosed a few pieces of new information Tuesday night from their year-long look at the April 2010 deadly Upper Big Branch mine explosion. They said that:
-- Mine owner Massey Energy kept two sets of records that chronicled safety problems. One internal set of production reports detailed those problems and how they delayed coal production. But the other records, which are reviewed by federal mine safety inspectors and required by federal law, failed to mention the same safety hazards. Some of the hazards that were not disclosed are identical to those believed to have contributed to the explosion.
Yep, when Barack Obama contended that corporations dislike the way regulations cut into profits, that was a total "head shaker."
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