The Political Pig Pile

Harsh cover article in this month’s Harper’s Magazine. Kevin Baker in “Barrack Hoover Obama” hammers the new president for lack of sack. The chorus of armchair presidents including Bill Maher opines: the policy of do-it-all bi-partisan appeasement is failing. You can’t reason people out of their perceived self-interest. Obama should channel his inner Dick Cheney to bring out the conniving take-no-prisoners ass kicker within to punch a pared down to-do list.

To be fair, the administration inherited an overflowing economic outhouse built atop 30 years of politically expedient policy effluent dumped by both Republicans and Democrats. Monetarist in booms, Keynesian in busts, by turns the two parties filled the ground that was America’s productivity promise with a heap of reeking debt to overflowing.

The soggy floor above it all sagged under the weight of the Bush administration’s megalomaniac military ambition to keep oil cheap by force of arms starting in 2001. Oil prices responded by heading in the wrong direction and the floor caved in. But as hastily as the GOP scampered from the building as all the floor boards crumbled away President Obama leapt in like a kid into a lily pond on a hot summer’s day, without so much as holding his nose.

At a news conference at the end of April, he said that one of the biggest surprises of his first months in office was the sheer number of crucial issues that have come to the fore at the same time.

Democrats confronted this unforeseen challenge as Dave Barry once aptly described in a quip that distills our two political two parties to their essence:

“The Democrats seem to be basically nicer people, but they have demonstrated time and again that they have the management skills of celery. They’re the kind of people who’d stop to help you change a flat, but would somehow manage to set your car on fire. I would be reluctant to entrust them with a Cuisinart, let alone the economy. The Republicans, on the other hand, would know how to fix your tire, but they wouldn’t bother to stop because they’d want to be on time for Ugly Pants Night at the country club.”

True to form, the Obama administration quickly set about burning down the FIRE economy to save it. He hired a Treasury secretary with a record of ineffectuality and the knavish genius Larry Summers to manage economic policy. Within days of taking office, the bloom of change was already off the rose.

The Wall Street Journal reported:

“Top White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers received about $5.2 million over the past year in compensation from hedge fund D.E. Shaw, and also received hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees from major financial institutions.

“A financial disclosure form released by the White House Friday afternoon shows that Mr. Summers made frequent appearances before Wall Street firms including J.P. Morgan, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers. He also received significant income from Harvard University and from investments, the form shows.

“In total, Mr. Summers made a total of about 40 speaking appearances to financial sector firms and other places, with fees totaling about $2.77 million. Fees ranged from $10,000 for a Yale University speech to $135,000 for an appearance paid for by Goldman Sachs & Co.”

Bribery in third world countries goes on under the table, behind closed doors, hidden from nosy journalists. In the US bribery of public officials occurs in broad daylight, paid out as speaker’s fees and advisor’s compensation.

I know, I know. You don’t want to hear this. The crisis passed. Green shoots and all that. Jon Stewart’s dressing down of Jim Cramer? Dismissed. The assertion by Bill Black, the senior federal savings and loan regulator during the S&L crisis, to Bill Moyers that the current banking crisis is “1,000 times worse, perhaps, certainly 100 times worse, than the savings and loan crisis” yet no one has been prosecuted? Forgotten. The revelation from Simon Johnson, Director of the Research Department at the IMF and Sloan School of Management at MIT Professor of Entrepreneurship, that the US is not run by either Republican or Democratic parties but by American bank oligarchs?

Simon who?

Down the memory hole they go. Within months, the events of the Cramer’s ear boxing, Bill Black’s warning, and Johnson’s epiphany will join those of last year’s winners of “So You Think You Can Dance?” in America’s collective gnat memory.

Click here to read part I & II of Eric Janszen’s “The Cheh Shaped Recovery.”