'Liberal elite,' not the corporate rich, bear brunt of resentment over bail-outs

Prolific book and op-ed writer Michael Lind is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation. He’s been described as a “recovering conservative,” though it’s difficult at times to determine whether he’s just trying to present the viewpoint of conservatives or he’s speaking in his own voice.

Whichever the case, his intuitive understanding of how the conservative mind works is invaluable. Think of him as politics’ equivalent of a pro football player who signs with another team and shares his former team’s plays with his new coaches.

In his latest article at the Daily Beast, Obama’s Midwest Blunder, Lind writes:

“President Barack Obama’s poll numbers are slipping, and nowhere have they slipped more dramatically than in the Midwest. …

In his [July 14] speech in Michigan, Obama hit both the new economy and green economy themes. First, the green economy: “I want Michigan to build windmills and wind turbines and solar panels and biofuel plants and energy-efficient light bulbs and. … you can be all on top of weatherizing.”

There you have it—the future of American manufacturing, according to the president, is not making machine tools, automobiles, aerospace, and consumer electronics, but rather making “windmills and wind turbines and solar panels and biofuel plants and energy-efficient light bulbs.” Never mind that the market for these is minor and mostly created by government mandates on utilities and government subsidies.

If the president wished to give a boost to sagging American — as well as his own Midwestern — fortunes, he would, according to Lind:

. . . favor “Buy American”. . . legislation and other policies to reward the onshoring of production in American borders. . . rather than outsourcing of American industries. This assumes, of course, that Obama wants to be an industrial president, like Lincoln and Roosevelt, rather than the president of a post-industrial nation. … If he continues [to ignore] the intensifying global competition for manufacturing while telling Americans comforting fairy tales about windmills and diploma mills, then Barack Obama, the postindustrial president, may be a post-president in 2013. [Emphasis added.]

Obama then moves on to. . . the new economy: “But we also have to ensure that we’re. … building the foundation for a 21st century education system here in America, one that will allow us to compete with China and India and everybody else all around the world.” (Emphasis Lind’s.)

Obama surely did not intend to insult America’s industrial workers. But that’s exactly what he did, by implying that if American workers lose their jobs to Chinese and Indian workers, their own lack of education is to blame. Not the short-term calculations of greedy shareholders who pressure U.S. multinational companies into shuttering factories in the U.S. and opening them in other countries.

The advantages of viewing issues from both sides of the political spectrum are apparent. Even more intriguing is a February article of Lind’s, Stop the Democratic Suicide. He wrote:

First they came for the bankers. Then they came for the CEOs. Then they came for the liberals. That might be the epitaph of the Democratic Party, if Democrats cannot learn to surf the tsunami of populism created by the economic earthquake.

As more Americans lose their jobs and their homes, as more businesses crater and banks topple, popular anger is rising like a wall of water over a suddenly quiet beachfront resort. You’d think that the Democrats in Washington would be aware of the danger. After all, the massive expansion of Great Society spending in the 1960s, followed by the stagflation of the 1970s [not sure if his cause and effect is correct — RW] allowed the marginal conservative movement to tap populist anger and dominate American politics for a generation. …

To date, however, the Obama administration has seemed more concerned with reassuring Wall Street that it will be protected against Main Street hotheads than in disciplining Wall Street on behalf of Main Street Americans who have lost jobs, homes, and savings.

Given the opportunity, Republicans can once again tap a reservoir of resentment, some of it justified.

Lind writes that a third-party candidate might be able to siphon off enough votes from the president to allow the Republicans to eke out a victory. Actually, if they can reel Americans back into the What’s the Matter With Kansas? state of mind, Republicans might be able to swing it themselves.

To refresh your memories, Republicans just need to remind Americans of the assumptions many of us operated under during the Bush years. To wit, it’s not the practices of the corporate rich that cost us our jobs and houses. It’s the liberal elite and their latte-sipping, third-trimester-aborting ways.

In fact, widespread wrath at the super-rich, aside from their bonuses and corporate jets, has failed to materialize. After all, the belief that we’re all rich people waiting to happen is ingrained in many Americans. Nor do we imagine that once we get there, we’d care to be constrained by regulations or bled dry by taxes.

It’s more likely though that our anger remains inchoate because the Obama administration has purposely avoided singling out individuals and charging them with corporate crime. Should the emphasis on bail-out over stimulus erode the economy further, Obama, Geithner, Summers, et al, instead of the corporate culprits, are poised to take the fall.

Categories: Economy

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10 replies »

  1. It’s true. The Dems are fucking around and blowing their best chance in a generation. And to be fair, don’t the “liberal elite” (and by this i mean the mandarins in the party, the president, the Congresspeople) deserve whatever anger they get? They have very clearly taken sides…and it isn’t with the little people.

    It will be a shame if the anger results in a Republican resurgence since that party is no more concerned with the plight of the average American than the Democrats. But with the Dems doing their best to be just like the Reps, one has to wonder if it even matters. And it doesn’t help that the Obama administration is so good at alienating its constituencies (mocking the pot smokers, throwing the gays under the bus, pretending the anti-war segment doesn’t exist…).

  2. How’s this for an overly simplistic summary: America elected the Dems to bust the balls of the hyper-rich. But the Dems, faced with a choice, sided with the hyper-rich because those inside the Beltway want to BE hyper-rich.

    There hasn’t been a party of the people for some time now, but the Dems are in the process of making that too obvious for even the average American voter to misunderstand. So the choice becomes vote for the evil bastards or vote for ignorant motherfuckers who refused to do anything about the evil bastards.

    Either way, the power-elite wins and the rest of us lose.

  3. Dr. Slammy: It may be overly simplistic, but it’s exactly right.
    If the Republicans and Democrats had set out to work the system this way I’m not sure they could’ve managed it any better than they have. One makes a whole helluva lot of noise about the other doing exactly what they would’ve done. That way the illusion of choice is preserved.

    This country has moved so far to the right the Democrats make Reagan look like a bleeding heart liberal. So while there’s no actual conspiracy, the difference between the two parties is superficial at best. Even if one is half-assed trying to give us a twisted version of public health care…More to shut us up than anything else. While protecting the insurance company profits, of course.

  4. The real divide is between the people who have money and those who don’t. The Dems are solidly in bed with the faction of the monied elite(while they talk a populist theme), while the Republicans are in bed with the other side. The only thing that irks the real producers in this country is the fact that we’re going to have to pay for all of this. Parties don’t mean a thing, as the real battle is between those that are thrifty in their personal habits and those that aren’t. Kind of like 1917 Russia, with an eager left wing ready to sieze control and make society in their own image, and extracting their own vigorish. Remember that all taxes ultimately come from someone’s profit, somewhere. Profit drives the bus, and one can never forget about this. It’s good to be greedy, as shareholders need to have a ilttle greed before the government gets it’s cut. Greed is good, self interest is especially good these days…..collectivism will get you nowhere.

    It’s a tough world out there and someone has to pay for it and I guess it’s going to be us.


    • Let me ask for a clarification, Jeff. Did you just say that the GOP is not in bed with the moneyed elite?

      It is true that they have been closely allied with non-moneyed interests (that’d be the social conservatives – in the past I’ve talked about the unholy alliance between the Country Club Right and the Trailer Park Right), but the fact of that relationship has been about numbers and numbers only. The (very few) hyper-rich need the many (poor, and getting poorer) to win elections. I’m not saying anything new here, just observing that the sun rises in the east.

      The assertion that the GOP is somehow not about the moneyed elite, though, well, had Pinocchio said THAT out loud a thousand year-old redwood would have exploded out of his sinus cavity. Seriously, I’m not sure Karl Rove could crack that line off with a straight face.

  5. They have very clearly taken sides…and it isn’t with the little people.

    Thanks, Lex.

    So the choice becomes vote for the evil bastards or vote for ignorant motherfuckers who refused to do anything about the evil bastards.

    Exactly, Dr. S.

    This country has moved so far to the right the Democrats make Reagan look like a bleeding heart liberal.

    Just about, JT.

    It’s a tough world out there and someone has to pay for it and I guess it’s going to be us.

    Agreed, Jeff.

  6. Jeff, if you weren’t there, some other middleman would take your place to make those tax payments. Collectivism, or whatever’s going to pass for it today, is simply going to (HOPEFULLY) keep the growing ranks of the poor (especially the house-poor and especially those currently making the transition from ‘house-poor’ to ‘poor-house’ who now get to see firsthand what the officially poor have been putting up with all this time), chronically ill (regardless of the cause, mind you–don’t throw that ‘personal responsibility’ crap at me when people worldwide suffer from conditions like cystic fibrosis and leukemia and MS) and disabled from being officially flushed down the toilet and forgotten by people who see their bottom lines as America’s #1 priority. And luckily for this faction, it’s being well represented on a national level.

    We’re too far gone to be “saving” anything. It’s my view that members of both major parties have their own strategy to pick everything that’s left off of the corpse we’ve got to work with before the maggots get the rest. And guess who the maggots are, my dear Watson? You’re one bad transaction away from finding out.

  7. @ Sam,

    Perhaps I didn’t express myself well enough……..the Republicans are in bed with the other side of the monied elite.

    @ Mr. Cargo
    Why don’t you sign your real name, as hiding behind the cloak of anonymity is just cowardice. Saying we’re too far gone to be saving anything? Is this fact based information or hyperbole? Economic conditions were far worse in the late 70’s than they are now. Just about every measure of any key economic indicator was worse during that period. You only think things are the worst in history because that is what the 24/7 media tells you to believe. Study history and you’d realize that things aren’t that bad and the sky is not falling.

    I liked the maggot comment, shows that you have a lot of class. By the way, I lost $24K on a bad sugar trade today. Am I whining? Not on your life. That’s where personal responsibility comes in, as I accept what happens and regard losses as part of the cost of doing business. People whine too much and can never blame themselves for their own misfortune. It’s always someone else’s fault, those evil Republicans, Democrats, Liberals, Conservatives…you fill in the blanks.