Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Article Of The Week

Thomas Frank, writing in his Wall Street Journal column, "The Tilting Yard," has it approximately 98.2% correct, which is about his average. In "What's the Matter With Democrats," a takeoff of his "What's the Matter with Kansas," Frank notes "The laissez-faire system has just finished giving us a convincing demonstration of its viciousness, but the party of Franklin Roosevelt can't get out in front of the resulting anger."

The Democratic Party doesn't know how to deal with "angry, working class people" because

Many of the party's resident geniuses gave up on that constituency long ago, preferring instead to remodel their organization as the vanguard of enlightened professionals and the shrine of purest globaloney. They worked hard to convince Wall Street that new-style Democrats could be trusted.

Frank recognizes the symptoms and made the proper diagnosis, and realizes the bleeding might have been staunched had President Obama

helped in this regard, using the biggest megaphone in the land to tell us, in the Times's words, "why it happened and whom to blame." He might have explained to us how financial regulation was systematically undermined by his predecessors, how the prospect of quick profits bred conflicts of interest throughout the system, and how a delusional free-market superstition blinded the nation to the unsoundness of the financial structure.

contested the right's monopoly on the word "elite." He might have reached out to working-class voters in the only way Democrats can.

Frank sarcastically, but accurately, argues that was avoided because it "would have been divisive. That would have disturbed the confidence of the markets." Certainly, as he implies, President Obama has been somewhat intimidated by Wall Street. But it may go beyond that. On January 10, 2009 ABC News George Stephanopoulos wrote

I asked the president-elect, "At the end of the day, are you really talking about over the course of your presidency some kind of grand bargain? That you have tax reform, healthcare reform, entitlement reform including Social Security and Medicare, where everybody in the country is going to have to sacrifice something, accept change for the greater good?"

"Yes," Obama said.

"And when will that get done?" I asked.

"Well, right now, I’m focused on a pretty heavy lift, which is making sure we get that reinvestment and recovery package in place. But what you described is exactly what we’re going to have to do. What we have to do is to take a look at our structural deficit, how are we paying for government? What are we getting for it? And how do we make the system more efficient?"

"And eventually sacrifice from everyone?" I asked.

"Everybody’s going to have to give. Everybody’s going to have to have some skin in the game," Obama said.

Recalling these remarks, Digby whacked Obama Wednesday:

The problem, of course, is that the best case has millionaires "sacrificing" being able to buy a bigger airplane while the average retiree has to sacrifice eating protein. This "game" we've all got our skin in has some much more serious consequences for some of us than others: since certain of the wealthy players just crashed the financial system a whole lot of soon-to-be seniors lost their nest eggs in both the real estate and stock markets (and are being priced out of the health care market just when they need the coverage the most.) If there's a worse time to require these particular people to sacrifice more I don't know what it is.

It's also true that often the people for whom "sacrifice" is nothing more than a minor inconvenience are prone to lecture those for whom is is quite painful. It's irritating.


Thomas Frank always has decried the failure of the left to have an "economic narrative to counterbalance the wisdom of Rush Limbaugh." Gay rights are imperiled in California or Maryland, the left responds; Rush Limbaugh yet again attacks black(s) because, well, they're black, even the mainstream media cries foul. In the economic realm, however, the response is puny: Democrats have, Frank notes, "accepted, for the most part, the deregulatory agenda of the Reagan administration; in fact, in some fields—banking, telecommunications, free trade—they went farther than Ronald Reagan dared."

It is one of the reasons genuine health care reform, so eagerly awaited upon the election of Barack Obama, is now such a dim memory.

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