I also voted for President Obama in 2008 and given the choice between GOP-lite, and full-on GOP, I’ll probably take the lite again next year.
That said, President Obama is not on the side of OWS. That is just one of many false narratives being spread by various establishment factions (GOP, media, Dems, Tea Party) for the purpose of subsuming and then controlling – or attacking and then destroying – a movement that threatens their base of power. The idea that the president is on the side of people who want criminal investigations of Wall Street for their role in causing the financial collapse and subsequent recession is hilarious in the face of things like this:
Eric T. Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York, has come under increasing pressure from the Obama administration to drop his opposition to a wide-ranging state settlement with banks over dubious foreclosure practices, according to people briefed on discussions about the deal.
In recent weeks, Shaun Donovan, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and high-level Justice Department officials have been waging an intensifying campaign to try to persuade the attorney general to support the settlement, said the people briefed on the talks.
Mr. Schneiderman and top prosecutors in some other states have objected to the proposed settlement with major banks, saying it would restrict their ability to investigate and prosecute wrongdoing in a variety of areas, including the bundling of loans in mortgage securities.
And the resume of Obama’s new Chief of Staff, Bill Daley. Daley served as a bank executive and CEO in Chicago for four years; served on the board of corrupt GSE Fannie Mae; joined the government as Commerce Secretary; became a lobbyist and PR flack for SBC, a large national telecommunications company; became Chairman of one of the largest banks in the country, JPMorgan Chase; served as a director of defense giant Boeing and pharmaceutical giant Merck, and then returned to government as Obama’s Chief of Staff.
Daley wasn’t appointed in spite of these things, he was appointed precisely because of these things. Because he has shown himself to be a loyal and effective servant of Wall Street and two of America’s largest, richest, and most powerful industries: defense and pharmaceuticals. It’s beyond question that once Daley leaves the Obama administration, he’ll almost certainly join another billion dollar corporation to serve virtually the same function he is serving today: to look out for the best interests of whatever Big Business outfit pays him the most money.
Daley is hardly an anomaly in the Obama administration. The White House National Economic Council director, Lawrence Summers, played a leading role as part of the Clinton administration in deregulating derivatives. The practice of bundling things like mortgages into giant packages of bullshit which can then be chopped up into smaller shit nuggets and sold as a brand new and utterly meaningless “security” (they should have named these things insecurities based on their performance) when can then be traded as it if were stock, or a commodity like gold.
Summers is a great example of politicians and government being owned and controlled by Wall Street and the nation’s most powerful business interests. A story emerged a few years ago that Summers helped himself to free rides on private corporate jets owned by Citigroup to the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Citigroup was a recipient of the Bush administration’s TARP bailout program.
President Obama relied heavily on contributions from the country’s largest banks and investment firms to win the Democratic nomination and then the presidency. He quickly staffed his cabinet and administration with former bank executives and lobbyists and is strongly pressuring the New York Attorney General to join a meager $20 billion settlement with the banking industry that wouldabsolve them of all civil and criminal liability for their part in the financial collapse, without even knowing but a fraction of what crimes they actually committed. To give you an idea of just how small that settlement is, it would most likely be paid out over the course of several years spread across a half dozen different banks. Citigroup made $10 billion in pure profit last year all by itself. Citi’s 2010 revenue – what they earned before costs and taxes – was $86 billion. JPMorgan Chase had $17.3 billion in profit last year on $102 billion in revenue. Bank of America actually lost $2 billion last year, yet earned $134 billion in revenue.
The top five banks – most of which which received bailout funds under TARP – earned a combined $453.6 billion in revenue last year and controlled $8.4 trillion in assets. That’s equal to over half of America’s GDP last year.
These aren’t even all of the banks that would contribute to the $20 billion settlement, and the absurdity of how small a penalty that repents for crashing the American economy doesn’t even compare to the absurdity of the plan itself. Most of the $20 billion will be given to Americans on the verge of losing their homes – by the banks paying the penalty – with those people then handing that money right back to the banks in order to keep those homes.
But the Obama administration isn’t the only faction fighting viciously on the side of Wall Street to cover up its crimes and protect it from civil liability and from having to pay more than a token amount of money for all the chaos and suffering they have caused, and without reform, will continue to cause in the foreseeable future.
Any group or individual that benefits from (or hopes to benefit from) the establishment is fighting to protect their source of power. That includes the “lamestream media” which is largely owned by billion dollar multi-national conglomerates and which rely on cozy relationships with the government for their bitchy, royal court gossip stories. The same media outlets that for decades have ignored rampant law breaking on Wall Street and political corruption while average Americans are imprisoned for increasingly trivial offenses in unprecedented numbers.
It also includes any group outside of government and Big Business that one day hopes to benefit from having their people “control” the government so that their ideological agenda will become a priority. We’ve already seen that with the Tea Party. Despite claiming to be a populist and anti-establishment movement, the Tea Party has largely dedicated itself to electing mainstream conservatives to Congress and to state legislatures in order to control the political agenda of those corporate institutions. People like Scott Brown, who was supposed to be the Tea Party’s first big victor, ended up taking large financial contributions from the country’s largest banks during his campaign, and who worked tirelessly to protect Wall Street from effective reform.
Brown specifically opposed a provision that would have forbidden the banks from taking big risks with tax-payer bailout money. Thanks to Brown and his Tea Party compatriots in the House, that provision was stripped from reform legislation and banks like Goldman Sachs are now free to continue making huge, unreasonable and unprecedented gambles with money they took from the Treasury two years ago for their own profit (and your loss).
Brown and the Tea Party worked hard to, and successfully preserved the privatized profit and socialized loss system of government and Wall Street that has come to define the American economy.
* * *
One of the primary means of tearing down the Occupy Wall Street populist movement is an attempt by various factions to jam it into the traditional and very lucrative right vs left paradigm. That actually serves two functions. It allows hyper partisan fuckwads like Glenn Beck and Andrew Brietbart to falsely place themselves and their favored faction (the Tea Party for now) on level ground with OWS, with the former masquerading as anti-establishment when it’s clearly no such thing. Merely putting them side by side serves that function quite well, and turns the argument into he-said-she-said with no clear lines between the two. It also allows the real power brokers who are threatened – terrified – by OWS to paint it as politics as usual, with one party looking for a scapegoat when the real problem, you see, is over here. Not on Wall Street, it’s politics as usual in Washington. Don’t blame us.
The thing with Brietbart is especially fucked up. This is the guy who runs a pro-conservative (and therefore largely pro-business) site called Big Government which sees government as the problem to literally everything, while everyone and everything else is completely innocent and honest. If they could just get out from under the thumb of big government, we’d all be rich, happy, and white.
Which is precisely why Brietbart’s faction hates and is terrified of Occupy Wall Street. They don’t actually believe that Big Government is the problem, so much as they believe that Big Government run by someone other than them is the problem. Which is why the Tea party has largely tasked itself with electing Republicans to Congress instead of anyone they think will institute reform.
Occupy Wall Street threatens Big Government (GOP flavor) as much as it threatens Big Government (Democrat flavor), and that’s not what people like Beck and Brietbart want. They don’t want to shrink the size of government. They want to control it for themselves, and OWS threatens that given its non-partisan, anti-establishment nature.
Matt Taibbi wrote about how these various factions are working on concert to shoehorn OWS into the traditional political narratives (right vs left, big government is the problem, GOP obstruction is the problem, etc) this afternoon:
This whole episode to me underscores an unpleasant development for OWS. There is going to be a fusillade of attempts from many different corners to force these demonstrations into the liberal-conservative blue-red narrative.
This will be an effort to transform OWS from a populist and wholly non-partisan protest against bailouts, theft, insider trading, self-dealing, regulatory capture and the market-perverting effect of the Too-Big-To-Fail banks into something a little more familiar and less threatening, i.e. a captive “liberal” uprising that the right will use to whip up support and the Democrats will try to turn into electoral energy for 2012.
Tactically, what we’ll see here will be a) people firmly on the traditional Democratic side claiming to speak for OWS, and b) people on the right-Republican side attempting to portray OWS as a puppet of well-known liberals and other Democratic interests.
On the Democratic side, we’ve already seen a lot of this behavior, particularly in the last week or so. Glenn Greenwald wrote about this a lot last week, talking about how Obama has already made it clear that he is “on the same side as the Wall Street protesters” and that the Democratic Party, through the DCCC (its House fundraising arm), has jumped into the fray by circulating a petition seeking 100,000 party supporters to affirm that “I stand with the Occupy Wall Street protests.”(I wonder how firmly the DCCC was standing with OWS sentiment back when it was pushing for the bailouts and the repeal of Glass-Steagall Act).
We’ve similarly heard about MoveOn.org jumping into the demonstrations and attempting, seemingly, to assume leadership roles in the movement.
All of this is the flip side of the coin that has people like Breitbart trying to frame OWS as a socialist uprising and a liberal media conspiracy. The aim here is to redraw the protests along familiar battle lines.
The Rush Limbaughs of the world are very comfortable with a narrative that has Noam Chomsky, MoveOn and Barack Obama on one side, and the Tea Party and Republican leaders on the other. The rest of the traditional media won’t mind that narrative either, if it can get enough “facts” to back it up. They know how to do that story and most of our political media is based upon that Crossfire paradigm of left-vs-right commentary shows and NFL Today-style team-vs-team campaign reporting.
What nobody is comfortable with is a movement in which virtually the entire spectrum of middle class and poor Americans is on the same page, railing against incestuous political and financial corruption on Wall Street and in Washington. The reality is that Occupy Wall Street and the millions of middle Americans who make up the Tea Party are natural allies and should be on the same page about most of the key issues, and that’s a story our media won’t want to or know how to handle.
While I agree that OWS and the Tea Party should be natural allies, that’s only the case if the Tea Party goes back to its roots and realizes that whatever the solution might end up being, one thing it won’t be is electing more partisan shitbags to Congress. The Tea Party tried that and it didn’t work. They put something like 100 new Republicans in Congress wearing Tea Party buttons on their suits, and absolutely nothing has changed in the past ten months.
Several GOP 2012 presidential candidates claim to be Tea Party supporters, and none of them seem interested in investigating Wall Street crimes, closing the revolving door between government and Big Business, decreasing the influence of lobbyists, reforming and regulating Wall Street, ending political corruption or the destructive influence of unlimited soft money in elections.
None of which is partisan, since few of these things – of any of them – are being advocated by establishment Democrats either.
And that’s the larger point here, I think. The fact that while some Democrats are looking to attach themselves like leeches to OWS, none of them are saying what OWS is saying. Nobody in Washington is. Contrast that to the Tea Party, whose platform is almost indistinguishable from that of the Republican Party and its 2012 GOP candidates.
I’d love to see the Tea Party shed its partisan ambitions, but I just don’t see that happening. The establishment is what it is because it’s so alluring. Because if you just do things their way, you’ll get what you want politically. The GOP is lavishly funded by the country’s largest banks and in return for blocking serious Wall Street reform and regulation, the GOP gets to pass anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage bills as a doggie bone for being loyal servants. Democrats are lavishly funded by the country’s largest insurance companies – including President Obama – and the individual mandate passes (engorging the profits of insurance companies with tens of millions of new forced customers) and the public option is negotiated away in secret backroom deals.
The Tea Party likes and wants what the GOP is doing so it benefits them to elect more Republicans to Congress, not to sever the ties between government and its true constituents on Wall Street. No establishment means special interest factions getting an agenda only favored by 20% of the nation passed as if it were supported by everyone, and Wall Street barons no longer receive full scale immunity for law breaking.
* * *
A lot of people profess to not understand what the OWS movement is protesting. If you’re one of those people, this is is a big clue.
Update: In somewhat related news, Dan Froomkin dug into election fundraising data published by opensecrets.org. He found that the biggest Wall Street banks have given more money to Republican Mitt Romney than every other GOP candidate and President Obama combined. Goldman Sachs in particular gave Romney $441,000, compared to $49,000 to President Obama at second most. It’s pretty clear that the banks think Romney will be a much better investment than Obama, despite the Obama administration’s attempt to shut down New York’s investigation of mortgage fraud.
In totally unrelated news, the American Institute of Certified Public accountants analyzed Herman Cain’s “9-9-9” plan and found that billionaire investor Warren Buffet’s nearly $7 million yearly tax bill would drop to just $440,000, and possibly drop to nothing at all if it became law. There are important caveats to consider, but none that would make this incredible giveaway to the rich be anything other than a travesty and a wholesale transfer of wealth from the poor and middle class directly to the pockets of the ultra rich. To understand just how bad this would be, consider that the richest Americans are supposed to pay 35% of their earnings in federal income tax. But because of loopholes, many Wall Street barons only pay at a 15% rate because all of their earnings are considered “capital gains”. Under that scheme, an industry professional making $250,000 per year would pay a higher tax rate than a hedge fund manager earning $4 billion per year.
Under Cain’s plan, that 15% would drop to just 9%.
This illustrates why the biggest problems facing the country don’t just come from government, or just from Wall Street. Wall Street bankers commit unprecedented mortgage fraud and simply aren’t held legally accountable for it. Not only that, but their businesses are bailed out by the taxpayers when things go south. And politicians like Mitt Romney — the largest recipient of bank money this election cycle by a huge margin — and Herman Cain work tirelessly to look out for the banks while simultaneously doing everything within their power to transfer even more wealth and power from the middle class directly into the pockets and hands of the already ultra rich and powerful.