The Rich Return


What haunts the Obama administration is what still haunts the country: the stunning lack of accountability for the greed and misdeeds that brought America to its gravest financial crisis since the Great Depression. There has been no legal, moral, or financial reckoning for the most powerful wrongdoers. Nor have there been meaningful reforms that might prevent a repeat catastrophe. Time may heal most wounds, but not these. Chronic unemployment remains a constant, painful reminder of the havoc inflicted on the bust’s innocent victims. As the ghost of Hamlet’s father might have it, America will be stalked by its foul and unresolved crimes until they “are burnt and purged away.”

After the 1929 crash, and thanks in part to the legendary Ferdinand Pecora’s fierce thirties Senate hearings, America gained a Securities and Exchange Commission, the Public Utility Holding Company Act, and the Glass-Steagall Act to forestall a rerun. After the savings-and-loan debacle of the eighties, some 800 miscreants went to jail. But those who ran the central financial institutions of our fiasco escaped culpability (as did most of the institutions). As the indefatigable Matt Taibbi has tabulated, law enforcement on Obama’s watch rounded up 393,000 illegal immigrants last year and zero bankers. The Justice Department’s bally­hooed Operation Broken Trust has broken still more trust by chasing mainly low-echelon, one-off Madoff wannabes. You almost have to feel sorry for the era’s designated Goldman scapegoat, 32-year-old flunky “Fabulous Fab” Fabrice Tourre, who may yet take the fall for everyone else. It’s as if the Watergate investigation were halted after the cops nabbed the nudniks who did the break-in.

Obama’s Original Sin by Frank Rich – New York magazine, July 3, 2011

The Republican thrust to shrink the public sector rapidly enough to sink the recovery, to get to the drowning part as-it-were, offers the political payoff that President Obama can easily be pinned with the result of Republican policy through an act of deflection, something like, ‘too little, too late were the budget cuts.’ I think there’s a good chance this will be a successful strategy simply because Obama has not shown any awareness of what the only principle at stake is about. This principle is about Republicans wishing to destroy the Obama moment. This has been the one true principle since the 2008 election.

I don’t buy the GOP/Tea Party combination of Christian and patriotic piety with personal responsibility (writ to the level of the government living within its means,) at all. It’s hokem. I’m sure, once back in power, the GOP won’t move quickly to implement the Randian utopia. After all, trickle down economics hasn’t ever been thoroughly tried for obvious economic reasons.

But, President Obama has been so much more interested in rubbing the left tilting plutocrats the right way that he’s made no time to do the one thing that might turn the tables: get extremely exercised in public at those who have been hoping for his political demise for almost three years.

Rich again:

Obama had taken office at a true populist moment that demanded more than this. People were gagging over their looted 401(k)s and underwater homes, the AIG bonuses, and the bailouts. Howard Dean rage has never been Obama’s style—hope-and-change was an elegant oratorical substitute—and had he given full voice to the public mood, he would have been pilloried as an “angry black man.” But Obama didn’t have to play Huey Long. He could have pursued a sober but determined execution of justice and an explicit, major jobs initiative—of which there have been exactly none, the too-small stimulus included, to the present day.

I’ve given up hoping for Obama to unleash his inner FDR. Alas, Obama has turned out to be a beautiful coward in an environment where those who fiercely oppose him offer a cruel, un-doable fantasy. Still, Obama is already doing a slow-motion roll-over prior to the July roll out of a bi-partisan thrashing of the working class, working poor, and poor.

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