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Post details: The Audacity of Betrayal

The Audacity of Betrayal

When I saw the six story parking garage at the West Falls Church subway station packed to capacity with a motley crowd of private vehicles on late Saturday morning, I understood that Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity down in DC won't suffer from an audience dearth. And the signs of attendance cornucopia just kept coming. A massive line for train tickets wound its way from the vestibule through the covered highway overpass and out into the parking lot. The outbound platform was more crammed than the groupie section at a U2 concert and people density in subway cars approached values previously detected only at rush hour Tokyo. I was one of the lucky few who managed to get on board. Fortunately, a natural born leader with obvious recent exposure to high energy pancakes emerged in the middle of the crowd. His imperative commands kept our spirits up and united us against the hordes awaiting on subsequent platforms: "More defense to the second door!" - "Hold the line, people!" - "When the door opens everybody look mean!". Starting with East Falls Church station, not a single mouse managed to squeeze into the car.

The rally itself was way overdue. The level of political lunacy in this land reached levels that would have sent Emperor Nero running for cover. Or for binoculars. Either way, the system has become so profoundly unresponsive and mired in money that most reasonable people are turning away in disgust. No real campaign finance reform in the offing, no civil discourse to be heard anywhere inside the beltway, both parties caught in bed with big corporations, and worst of all - in a world where truth is too complex to belong to just one ideology - no willingness to compromise. In an effort to stem the onslaught of extremism and entrenched partisanship, Jon Stewart called upon the shrinking pool of rational citizenry to come together, to show support for moderation and sanity and to vote wisely. But it wasn't enough.

Despite some partial victories, the governing Democratic party took the most severe beating since FDR lost 72 seats in 1938. President Obama even used the word "shellacking" during the press conference the next day. The hope crowd had become restless. The tsunami of change changed its colors. And there was a reason for it.

There was a clearly defined moment last year when Obama had to choose unequivocally between Wall Street and Main Street. He had a rare and unique opportunity to right our economic ship. But at that pivotal moment, he sided with the powerful.

In March 2009, the financial world was teetering on the brim of collapse. Citibank stock traded under a dollar. Receivership was the word of the day. At that moment, Obama could have nationalized the banks - fire their upper (mis)management, restore their balance sheets and return them to business without onerous debt. In one fell swoop, he would have scrapped the greedy and corrupt culture, let the compulsive gamblers pay for their sins, and start anew with a clean slate. But that opportunity had been squandered. Not only have we bailed out the very people who created the mess, we have also relaxed the accounting standards so they could go right back to their risky shell games. No wonder that fat bonuses are flowing again while the little guy is left with spare change he can barely believe in.

Sanity 101: you don't turn your back on people who voted you into office.

On the surface, it might seem that Joe Sixpack does not have to be concerned with the world of high finance. But in reality he does. Money does not grow on trees, and all that hard cash we squandered on our beloved financiers is now missing somewhere else. It cannot be used to create new jobs, to educate population, to support the safety net, to invest in future technologies and to improve our aging infrastructure.

Obama has originally billed himself as a champion for the little guy, but his actions sing a different tune.

1. You have to look no further than his economic team to see where his allegiances are: Tim Geithner, the Wall Street darling and staunch proponent of the "something for nothing" philosophy, and Larry Summers, neo-Keynesian wizzard and the father of derivatives deregulation, were two pillars of Obama's bridge to the better economic future. Both firmly believed that no taxpayers' sacrifice is big enough to save the profligate financial industry. Obama's main sin, however, was reappointment of the Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. His inflationary policies have been steadily eroding budgets of lower and middle class families. They are the ones who will be the first victims of the soaring prices of commodities, directly resulting from the central bank's money tampering. Obama had many other options among the Fed officials, but at the end he chose the man who - among other things - relieved banks of toxic assets that they created and foisted them upon taxpayers who became the reluctant bagholders. Finally, Obama did not find courage to throw his support firmly behind Elizabeth Warren - the true champion of the little guy and a thorn in the side of the Wall Street crowd.

2. Financial and Health reforms were caricatures of sprawling corporatism and written mostly by insurance/pharmaceuticals/banking lobbyists. Big banks are still too big. Risky trading is still allowed. Various banking functions have not been effectively separated. The firms that operate the stock market still freely invest in it for their own gains. Can we imagine a Superbowl game where one of the teams delegates the referee? Yes, we can.

3. On Obama's watch, the inequality between rich and poor kept growing wider and wider. This is the most telling sign. Political posing, sermonizing and grandstanding can divert only so much attention. At the end, you learn the truth if you simply follow the money. If he stood for the little guy, the wealth gap would be getting narrower, not wider. And besides the dire consequences for Obama's core constituency, the income inequality is also a drag on the overall economy as rich people usually park their money in non productive assets. Gold bubble anyone?

There is a simple message hidden behind these technical issues. When an enemy stabs you in the back it hurts. When someone who claims to be your friend does the stabbing, it hurts tenfold. But contrary to the conventional political wisdom, people remembered. And they voted accordingly. The sooner Obama understands that he has to rein in the arrogant banksters, the better chances of re-election he will have.

Liberal movement has plenty of smart and vocal spokespeople: Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, Matt Taibbi, Michael Moore, Arianna Huffington - to name just a few. Now if only we had a president that would lend them his ear. At 5% interest if need be.



Comment from: Mary [Visitor]
All posts beautifully done and thoughtfully written.
Permalink 11/30/10 @ 01:24

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