Archive for May 24th, 2010
At the NYT, Paul Krugman is making it clear that even Obama rhetoric and mixed-signals are enraging the financial sector. Check out these numbers:
Look, for example, at the campaign contributions of commercial banks — traditionally Republican-leaning, but only mildly so. So far this year, according to The Washington Post, 63 percent of spending by banks’ corporate PACs has gone to Republicans, up from 53 percent last year. Securities and investment firms, traditionally Democratic-leaning, are now giving more money to Republicans. And oil and gas companies, always Republican-leaning, have gone all out, bestowing 76 percent of their largess on the G.O.P. These are extraordinary numbers given the normal tendency of corporate money to flow to the party in power. Corporate America, however, really, truly hates the current administration. Wall Street, for example, is in “a state of bitter, seething, hysterical fury” toward the president, writes John Heilemann of New York magazine.
Therefore, Mr. Obama, finish the job. Your attempts to straddle a middle position has lost most of your financial sector money. Give it up, because it is political crack cocaine. Quickly get behind meaningful financial reform. Use that bully pulpit to show that you really mean it when you speak for regular folks and for main street. Get passionate and loud, if you really mean want to reform Wall Street. I should tell you that I voted for you, but I’m just about to write you off on financial reform. Why aren’t you outlawing banks that are too big to fail? Why aren’t you pushing furiously for re-enactment for Glass-Steagall?
No one elected BP to run any level of American government. But we are a government by the money, not the People, so that is a big invitation to British Petroleum to control entire beaches to prevent the news media from from reporting the full extent of the damage resulting from the Gulf of Mexico oil leakage. Mother Jones reports.
In the meantime, most Americans passively sit and watch, along with our politicians, giving a well-documented irresponsible company endless opportunity to operate in relative secrecy while 65 miles of delicate Gulf Coast ecosystem has been ruined by oil. If a “terrorist” with brown skin from the Middle East had caused all of this immense damage, we would have declared yet another “war.” But it’s a bunch of Caucasian men wearing suits who crapped up the Gulf waters and beaches, and they have given huge amounts of money to Congress, so it’s all so very very different . . .
And keep in mind that this disaster does not simply affect the Gulf Coast. Did you see the photos of the oil-soaked pelicans? The “White Pelicans” aren’t simply “Gulf Coast” birds–they migrate all the way from the Gulf Coast up to Minnesota–it has been quite the spectacle to see them passing through St. Louis twice each year. We’ll see how many survive to fly next year. And that’s merely one species.
There is no reason for trusting that BP will do the clean-up job correctly, putting the environment before its profits. From the Mother Jones article (above), we’ve seen that BP will “fix” the problem by hiding information. News is now breaking that the oil has now penetrated 12 miles into the Louisiana marshes. I’m feeling sick about this disaster and sick about the lack of action by our federal government–Why is the Obama Administration continuing to defer to the “government” of British Petroleum? As soon as the first drops of oil escaped into the Gulf waters, this was no longer BP’s disaster; it became an immense American tragedy.
You’ve heard of “too big to fail.” Lots of bank money is making sure that we will continue to have “too big to fail banks.” If these Gulf oil rigs are too dangerous to fail, we shouldn’t have them either (here’s the obvious alternative). But no logic, no evidence and no earnest well-directed passion to preserve the environment will overcome huge corporate election contributions. I’m feeling the frustration of Chris Matthews:
Rand Paul, senate hopeful for Kentucky, made a fool of himself with remarks about the 1964 Civil Rights Act and racism and affirmative action et cetera et cetera so on and so forth. If Kentucky votes him into office, they get what they deserve. There was a brief moment when I thought Ron Paul was worthy of some respect—he seemed willing to speak truth to power. I found that I disagreed with him on specifics, but it is useful (and rare) to have someone doing the Emperor’s New Suit schtick.
However, anyone who names a child after an ideological demagogue has some serious problems with reality. (To be clear, Rand, under the circumstances, can only refer to Ayn Rand, the patron non-saint of the Libertarian Movement.)
Rand’s pronouncements about the rights of business owners to deny service to anyone they see fit is perfectly consistent with Randian philosophy and politics. Basically, it says that the person whose name is on the title owns what the title describes outright and has, by dint of absolute moral dictate, dictatorial command over said property and ought to be allowed to do with it what they wish. Without explanation to anyone and certainly without anyone else’s permission.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? I mean, you worked for it, you sweated, earned the means of acquisition, put your name and fortune on the line to own it, worked to make it do what you intended, you should therefore enjoy all rights and privileges in the say of what to do with it. Your home, your rules. There’s a feel-good quid pro quo to it that appeals a basic sense of fairness, suggests a rough equivalence between work and risk and rights.
This is fundamental to Ayn Rand’s whole premise, that the creator, the mind behind creation, the one who brings something into existence is the one who has the only natural say in what that thing so created can and will do and who it shall serve. For an avowed atheist, Rand had a very mythic, godlike attitude toward life.
And I suppose if you could somehow make the case that a single individual did indeed create something from whole cloth and by virtue of his or her singular efforts sustained it and drove it and made it successful, there might be a good and valid point to this view.
But is that ever the case?
Rand’s famous tome, Atlas Shrugged, makes the argument that the movers and shakers, the people who Do, are absolutely vital to the world. Nothing would exist without them and if they should withdraw their talent and genius and effort, the world would come to a halt. She makes the case for the Indispensible Man. And in the novel (for those of you who have not read it), a man named John Galt, fed up with the growing People’s Movements around the world, which he sees as essentially parasitic, calls a strike of the truly important people. He convinces the men and women who truly matter to leave the world, retire, disappear, and when they have all left, it seems no one can do what they did, and everything falls apart. The final image shows them emerging from their high-tech hideaway to assume command as the true and rightful aristocracy of ability.
It is, in her narrative, a very small group.
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