20 March 2009
Goddamn. Remember a couple years ago when all everyone talked about was Iraq? The left would say something about the surge was going to flop and Cheney was a dick, and the right would retort with cries of "defeatism" and that they didn't support the troops. Man, political discourse was so much easier in those days.
As the cool heads at The Moderate Voice have already noted, the TARP bailout in response to the economic crisis back in September 2008 and it's political fallout (this week, it's AIG bonuses in the spotlight) have woven the most convoluted mess of punditry we've been privy too in a long time. Talking points are altered on a daily basis, people largely responsible for the mess are trying to save their own asses by whipping up populist rhetoric, and the President is trying to "take the proverbial heat" just to squash this wretched debate.
So here's a bit of half-assed pundit deconstruction on where we are at as of 19 March 2009 (likely to change tomorrow...if not later this evening):
President Obama: While acknowledging that these bailouts were necessary, he's trying to pull the old Clintonesque "I Feel Your Pain" bit by acknowledging popular sentiment that the AIG bonuses were appalling for fear that he has an angry populist uprising amongst Americans. I'm sure he hopes this whole outrage gets swept under the rug quickly and the media will revert back to talking about the status of his White House blackberry.
Congress/Senate: Scrambling around like buffoons (both sides of the aisle) and getting all preachy about how awful these AIG bonuses are to save their careers on the public teat. The irony seems to be lost on them that they were the body that dumped all the taxpayer dollars into these floundering companies with very little accountability, and that many of these same congressmen/senators were at least partially responsible for this whole economic fiasco in the first damn place.
Fox News: They seem to be trying to blame the goons in Washington D.C. for this mess as seen by Shep Smith's angry rant yesterday and BillO going nuclear on incompetent legislator Barney Frank (D-MA) a few months back. Personalities like Neil Cavuto try to explain why the government dishing out billions of free money might have negative long-term ramifications, but breaking stories about AIG execs going to tanning salons strike the anger chord with more Americans and get more ratings.
CNN/MSNBC: Also lots of stories about suits flying off to corporate junkets in the Bahamas, and CNN was responsible in catching Senator Dodd in an embarrassing (criminal?) lie about who authored the amendment to allow for the AIG bonuses. The cable news outlets have been relentlessly pummeling anyone in Wall Street or DC who might be responsible for this economic mess to whip up ratings, and we appreciate it! My .02 is that the big cable news networks have done a good job documenting this saga for your average person sans MBA.
Dead Tree Media: Providing a lot of cover for the Obama administration and Wall Street by not looking deeper into the shady ties between Wall Street and Washington. For instance, why are hobbyist bloggers the ones sounding the bell about AIG campaign contributions? I suppose the only exception would be the Wall Street Journal, which has tried to investigate, albeit at a more educated (ergo boring) level than the cable news stations. However, the print media still thinks publishing illegible Kathleen Parker Op-Eds about boorish Americans who take an interest in politics is key in reviving this rapidly vanishing industry.
Conservative heavies: This is where it gets all weird. Just a few days ago, William Kristol said going populist would be a great political strategy for the GOP. With billions of taxpayer dollars going down the tubes, I'd say that's a good idea and where's my pitchfork. But, today Michelle Malkin, Rush Limbaugh, Hannity, and even the exalted Glenn Beck (oh noes! he's my fave!) are now opposed to the outrage against AIG. I suspect this has to do with following the partisan axiom of "always being for what the other side is against", and they are now crying a river about AIG suits receiving "death threats" because the of congressional Dem reaction. Odd.
Reason/Free-Market/Paultard types: I've generally believed that a collapse of portions of the bloated financial sector was necessary for long-term economic survival. Especially, since the zombiefication of all these banks in a quasi-socialist/nationalization type system will just delay an economic reckoning that is way overdue. Reason has been against the bailouts before they were against it, so at least someone out there is staying consistent and knows something about economics. However the "Go Galt" phenomenon I've seen with some of these people is incredibly creepy and I'd rather get touched in the bathing suit area by a mustached PE teacher than have to try and live out Ayn Rand's tyrannical vision of life.
Netroots: Also, another weird bunch. After spending 2008 and early 2009 deifying The Obama, they are now going after...Obama's Treausury cabinet?!? Glenn Greenwald is on a rampage saying that Summers and Geithner are responsible for the executive bonuses at AIG and same with FireDogLake. This seems like a big push to exonerate skeezy Dodd after he was caught lying, but at the expense of the one and only Obama?!? What is this world coming to? Dogs and cats, man.
AIG CEO Liddy: Took a dollar-a-year salary to save this monstrosity back in September 2008, which is respectable. But, he wrote a piece in the Washington Post promising the company was going to payback the taxpayers, which isn't look too good considering they just took billions more. However, he seems to be under the misconception that public service employees shouldn't be getting millions in bonuses. After all, with 80% government ownership in AIG, it should essentially have the perks of any government bureaucracy replete with lack of basic office supplies and crummy GS-whatever salaries. I think the man may be a bit "out of touch".
Anyhoo, I can't keep up with all the moving parts in this deep debate involving our financial future or lack thereof, so I'm dropping all feeds off my reader...except for Wonkette, which follows the model of "making fun of everybody all the time". Seems enjoyable enough to sit in your underwear and read. With all the rhetoric flying around that follows no traditional ideological conventions, it's almost like blogging in the twilight zone.
Maybe the next person to come out and talk about why we need more TARP funds will be... I dunno Art Bell or something.