Even as another potential Great Depression looms, the US political/media system seems incapable of honestly addressing the crisis and devising coherent answers. Instead, the old partisan and lobbying games dominate the political world, and obsession with trivia commands the news media's limited focus, Danny Schechter writes.
Some years back, Thomas Frank nailed it in his book, The Wrecking Crew. It was subtitled "How Conservatives Rule" and it showed how narrow self-interest and well-practiced cynicism in the service of partisan warfare has crippled our political system, resulting in a deep paralysis despite the looming threat of a collapse.
What it really is, Danny says, is sabotage, a tactic that involves deliberate effort to insure that reforms are effectively undermined. Today, the hatchets are out to do-in the needed financial reforms contained in a bill that has already been neutered and nit-picked, trimmed, sliced and diced by what's called "legislative compromise.'
And now a congressional-style Seal Team Six has been assembled by the Republicans and is ready to pounce on the new enemy of the politically powerful banksters: financial reform. (There is no corporate privilege or malevolent bank practice that bankster lobbyists will not defend . . in the name of fostering financial growth.)
One juicy sex scandal involving one or more pols gets more ink than all the investigations of how special interests, well-paid lobbyists, billionaire funders, think-tank gunslingers and slippery lawyers for hire serve to stop even mild reforms that might cost the industries they work for money or influence. There are no reforms they won't endlessly amend into oblivion.
Here's how it works
First, they commission bogus and selective studies to "prove" why reforms need to be "reformed," their way. Then, with PR and complicit corporate media, they orchestrate coverage to sell their policies. They start with something small like protections for debit cards, and then escalate to full-scale warfare.
Escalation example: the knives were out for the new Consumer Protection Bureau with a major campaign targeting Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren, who first proposed the agency and was widely considered the most qualified to lead it.
She was then demonized by the industry and the Right -- and now the Obama administration seems ready to abandon her, rather than fight for her. But we need her. Why? Because four years ago, the markets melted down, sparking a global crisis. The bailouts followed and a trillion-dollar bank-led "recovery" helped many banks recover. However, unemployment and foreclosures stayed high. Very high. And economic growth seized up. The crisis continues. And Elizabeth Warren understands the implications of all this for the average American, and she is our advocate.
So what was Obama's response?
He allowed his administration to be locked into an alliance with Wall Street. This alliance then killed proposals for structural reform and restraints on private economic power. And now the Obama administration is foolishly expecting an economic turnaround -- their version of faith-based politics -- even as jobs are not coming back.
In short, the Obama administration has no answers and is not prepared to fight any messy battles with the real power structure in this country, which consists of Wall Street and the big corporations. In the name of pragmatism, Obama has betrayed his own campaign compromises and tacked right, drifting ever closer to the Republicans.
They call it "triangulation." Their critics call it a sell-out. The Republicans retreated into knee-jerk simple-mindedness, blaming everything on Democrats and government spending. Then they began fueling a scare about "The Deficit" in the same way that their predecessors raved against "The Red Menace."
In Congress, supposedly wise men came up with a financial reform called Dodd-Frank. After stripping it of anything remotely radical, they offered up some pragmatic measures to increase regulation and try to force the finance industry to act responsibly with more transparency and accountability. However, the bill explicitly rejected proposals for any and all international standards and is essentially an empty suit.
Dodd-Frank passed, but then the real bargaining began on what the new rules should actually be. The finance industry mounted a lobbying force consisting of 25 high-powered lawyers and consultants for each and every member of Congress. The deliberations moved out of public view and into the corridors and closed clubs in Washington. The predictable result has now surfaced in the New York Times: