Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Burning Down The House

Famous last words: "We've got to do something." How many times I've heard this statement from defenders of this or that bankrupt, destructive, incompetent plan. It's a sign that the speaker doesn't really know what to do, knows that the course of action he advocates is indefensible, but wants to blunder ahead anyway, regardless of the cost (to others). It's a confession of incompetence and frustration, the fury of a three-year-old trapped in the body of a nominal adult. I heard it before Clinton's assault on Bosnia, from a liberal friend. (Innocent people are being killed? Let's kill a lot more of them! It may not be a perfect plan, but we've got to do something.) I heard it after September 11, 2001, from people of all political stripes who didn't really care which ragheads the US killed, as long as some ragheads died. (So maybe the hijackers were mostly Saudis, but let's invade Afghanistan -- we've got to do something.) I'm hearing it now from people who are furious that the House of Representatives rejected Bush's bailout plan for Wall Street. (So maybe it wasn't a perfect bill -- we've got to do something.)

(Whatever happened to the claim, so beloved of American reactionaries, that you can't solve problems by throwing money at them? Or maybe they don't hope that throwing money will fix this mess; maybe they just like throwing money at Wall Street.) Not only must We do Something, We Must Do It Now. Thinking through the situation, trying to figure out what is going on and how best to respond to it, rather than panicking; trying to do something rational rather than irrational; all this is anathema. It's important, in this view, not to think, not to consider alternatives, not to try to foresee the consequences of our actions. Rather one should hurl oneself blindly forward, pedal to the metal, over the cliff. I'm not sure I realized it was possible for Barack Obama to sink any lower in my esteem, but he has, by collaborating with Bush and defending his program:
Obama, campaigning in the western battleground state of Nevada, said he had talked with Bush, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other leaders Tuesday about resurrecting the recovery plan. He also sought to reassure the public, saying the plan had been "misunderstood and poorly communicated." "This is not a plan to just hand over $700 billion of your money to a few banks on Wall Street," Obama told supporters at a rally at the University of Nevada at Reno. Obama called for cooperation between Democrats and Republicans in a time of financial crisis.
Of course, it was precisely a plan to hand over $700 billion of our money to a few banks on Wall Street. But I might be being too cynical, if that is possible anymore; Paulson may simply have wanted to funnel the $700 billion directly into offshore bank accounts. 

Chris Floyd has a good piece on his blog and at Counterpunch. (And if you're not worried whether an image is work-safe, see the photo accompanying Pam Martens's article there. [Oops; the image can be seen here instead. But you should read Marten's article anyway.]) Read the whole thing. Floyd writes:
The New York Times called the House vote "a catastrophic political defeat for President Bush, who had put the full weight of the White House behind the measure." But this is manifestly untrue. As everyone but the nation's media -- and the Democratic Party -- knows, George W. Bush has no "political weight" to use, or lose. Yes, he still retains the authoritarian powers that the spineless Democrats have given him with scarcely a whimper of protest (and often with boundless enthusiasm); but as a political force -- i.e., someone whose opinions and statements can sway popular opinion -- he has been a dead and rotting carcass for a long time. He is the most unpopular president in American history; and I can report from first-hand, eyewitness knowledge that he is thoroughly despised by some of the most rock-ribbed, Bible-believing, flag-waving, down-home, John Wayne-loving Heartland types that you can imagine. Even his own party -- a party fashioned in his own image, the Frankensteinian melding of willfully ignorant religious primitivism and rapaciously greedy crony capitalism that he has embodied in his twerpish person -- kept him away from their convention this year. Nothing -- absolutely nothing -- could be politically safer than opposing George W. Bush. And yet the entire Democratic leadership, Barack Obama included, lined up to support a cockamamie plan proposed by this scorned and shriveled figure, a plan that was transparently nothing more than an audacious raid on the Treasury by Big Money hoods and yet another authoritarian power grab by a gang of murderous, torturing, warmongering toadies. This was the plan and these were the people that the Democrats decided to fight for.
I want to dwell on the stupidity -- it's not too strong a word, and probably not strong enough -- of supposing, as Obama clearly does, that George W. Bush has any concern for the welfare of the American people beyond the tiny minority he once jokingly called his "base." Or of supposing that even if he did care, Bush or the corrupt gang of thugs and fixers he has gathered around him have any idea how to advance that welfare, how to repair the tremendous damage they (and Clinton and Bush Sr. and Reagan before them) have done to this country. Or of supposing that most Americans nowadays consider it honorable to aid, cooperate with, or collaborate with George W. Bush in his schemes and programs. If there were a viable alternative to vote for in November, Obama has given us all the reason we'd need to vote for that alternative. Since there is no alternative, no one should have any illusions about the man as an agent of change. (I know, I know -- Obama may not be perfect, but we've got to do something to get Bush out of the White House.) Just as a matter of personal history, I note that Barney Frank (via Avedon Carol, who has a number of useful links) is among the Democratic leaders who supported Bush's plan and are enraged that it failed. I remember when Frank was just a closeted Massachusetts pol (I followed his career through Boston's Gay Community News); now he's openly gay, and still a creep. It would be nice if this affair put an end to the notion that the Democrats are any better than the Republicans, but that would be too much to hope for.