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Curtis Ellis

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Disgraced Financier Rattner Clueless About the Economy

Posted: 05/02/2013 1:32 pm

For the latest no-think howler on "what ails the U.S. economy," turn to the recent New York Times Opinionator commentary from Steven Rattner.

Mr. Rattner, you may recall, is the former "car czar" who honchoed the administration's auto industry bailout that gave GM billions of U.S. tax dollars while allowing it to shutter American plants. What was his previous experience in the automobile industry, or in any manufacturing industry for that matter? Nada. Zero. Zilch.

No, Rattner is a Wall Street guy, a Master of the Universe, and a slick one at that. He's skilled at greasing palms to get his own mitts on state workers' pension funds. And he's good at paying eight-figure fines while the pols on the receiving end of his bribes do hard time.

Apparently, the nation's most prestigious newspaper feels Rattner's financial acumen and half-vast experience in manufacturing -- manufacturing kickback schemes, that is -- qualifies him to hold forth on what ails the economy.

In his NYT's piece, Rattner says rightly that wages for American workers have been stagnant, and goes on to say rightly that this is bad news for the entire economy, because without money to spend these workers can't be good consumers.

But then Rattner says there's not much we can do about it, presenting as Exhibit A this nugget of internally inconsistent no-think conventional wisdom: "For example, the lack of wage growth owes much to the continuing effects of globalization, a trend that has benefited the United States as a whole while hurting many workers."

Those "many workers" who are hurting make up just about the entire "United States as a whole" except for he and his friends in private equity and the financial services industries.

It shows the power theological dogma has over the minds of otherwise intelligent people that Rattner doggedly clings to the belief that what's called globalization has 'benefited the U.S.' at the very same time -- in the very same sentence! -- he admits it's the cause of the wage stagnation and limp consumer demand poisoning our economy.

Here's another bit of dogma-doggerel: "To address the effects of globalization, so much more can be done in education and training to prepare workers for the skilled jobs that play better to America's strengths."

So what exactly are "the skilled jobs that play better to America's strengths"?

Cooking books on Wall Street? Bribing politicians? Inventing ever more clever kickback schemes? Waiting tables and providing massage services for well-heeled stock manipulators?

Or is Rattner talking about science, technology and engineering jobs? Would he have us believe Americans are unique in that they have been genetically gifted for these pursuits, more so than say, Indians or Chinese? Tell that to the high-tech titans that have more engineers on the payroll in China and India than here, or to the Silicon Valley venture capitalists who virtually require start-ups to hire offshore talent.

If Rattner is peddling the shopworn goods that "America's strength" is being an 'Innovation Economy,' a recent MIT report debunks the notion that we can lead the world in innovation and design while the production of goods happens overseas. Rather, it says "producing goods feeds back into the innovation process." And we must "take steps now to regain U.S. manufacturing momentum if we want to sustain the nation's signature economic advantage: innovation."

The offshoring of manufacturing is killing our ability to innovate, just as it is killing the middle class, killing our tax base and producing structural deficits as high unemployment and imports replace the local production of goods.

The U.S. economy is in the tank precisely because of people like the aptly named Rattner who shuffled our goods-producing industries offshore for a quick boost in the quarterly earning report -- and their carried interest payoffs.

That's why disgraced financier Steve Rattner and his crowd of Wall Street hotshots are uniquely unqualified to tell us what's wrong with the economy or how to fix it unless and until they admit remorse for their role in the present disaster.

The solution is clear: We must get back to what made America great in the first place: making things -- other than credit default swaps and collateralized debt instruments. Or else there will be no recovery for most Americans.

 
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