Friday, December 11, 2009

Matt Taibbi's Latest Must-Read: Obama's Big Sellout

The Rolling Stone writer takes on President Obama in his latest Wall Street slamdown. Everyone should read it, whether or not you agree with him, or care for his freewheeling, expletive-heavy, cynical style. I think Taibbi does channel well the pissed-off liberal-intellectual zeitgeist of disgust with Wall Street excesses.

His main points are:

1. Everyone who's senior level on Obama's economic/Treasury team once worked for Robert Rubin, came from Citigroup, came from Goldman Sachs, or some combination of all three. It's rather sobering as he ticks off the names, one by one -- and ties them back to Rubin/Citi/Goldman. And we wonder why we get so much Samethink out of this White House on economic issues?

2. Banking lobbyists right now are busily gutting legislation that would add consumer protections for financial products and force stricter regulation and transparency for derivatives trading. They are of course abetted by our "elected" representatives, who probably should be required to wear logo-plastered jumpsuits, a la racecar drivers, to show which special interests (which major insurers, banks etc.) they really take their marching orders from.

3. Americans on the whole are too dumb to care that the financial sector is hardly being reformed at all, despite the fact financier misdeeds brought us last fall to the brink of Credit Armageddon.

What disappointed me about Taibbi's article was that he catalogs a familiar litany of crimes but doesn't try to answer the underlying question of his piece: Why did Obama sell out? What happened to "Change We Can Believe In?" Is Obama really just another empty suit politician? Did we, American voters, just get duped again?

Here are the possible explanations I have for why Obama sold out. Pick the one, or ones, you like or feel free to add your own in the comments section:

Obama really was a fraud, just like so many other politicians, willing to say whatever he had to to get elected. He has no principles.

Obama talks a good game -- he is a master rhetorician -- but his cojones are about the size of sesame seeds. He does believe in change, but in practice, he all too quickly defaults to dull compromise.

Obama remains very aware of his "blackness," and is so worried about seeming radical to White America that he tacked hard the other way, to the safety of the Wall Street moguls.

Obama to this day doesn't really understand how badly his team screwed up and how much they gave away to the banking interests; economics is his weak suit and he simply isn't very interested in it, preferring on that long flight to Pakistan to read the Urdu poets instead. And he really thinks that, over the long view of history, his team will be lauded for its courage and wisdom in how it tackled the financial mess, and not disparaged for failing to deal directly with so many problems that caused it.

The banking lobby basically does own our capital: they own the Senate, the House, and the White House too. Of course that includes owning Obama, who felt the sting when Wall Street moneybaggers began to tighten their pocketbooks and said they weren't going to donate as much funds to Democrats because of his constant bashing of their industry.

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