The Grownups

The kids have been on the playground long enough.

Colin Powell, a grownup who has more foreign policy and national security chops than any thousand neocons, recently endorsed President Obama.

I think he started a trend.

Now comes New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, a champion of Wall Street who hasn’t had all that many kind things to say about O lately, in terms of O’s standing with Wall Street fat cats. (You see, fat cats don’t like to be called fat, and Obama did that three years ago, something they just can’t forgive, despite getting even fatter under the Obama presidency.)

Bloomberg has broken his silent neutrality in this year’s election and has endorsed Obama, partly for his stance on global warming. For Bloomberg, science trumps Trump, as that buffoonish New Yorker and Romney endorser is not only a birther freak, he is a global warming denier to boot. Who’s surprised those two things go hand in hand?

Bloomberg also touted the President’s education policy, his defense of gay rights, and a woman’s right to choose. Although Bloomberg spouted some nonsense about Obama’s need to listen “to people on both sides of the aisle” (something the President tried to do and, in fact, spent too much time trying to do, when it was clear the other side had nothing useful to say), his endorsement is a sign that the adults have seen enough of Kid Mittens.

Also, on the endorsement front, in comes The Economist, the highbrow magazine based in London, whose self-described goal is to,

take part in a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress.

Needless to say, for a magazine with such a lofty goal, endorsing Obama was the only choice—again.

Kenneth Rapoza at Forbes summarized the reasons The Economist said no to the vulture capitalist with a spray tan:

Foreign Policy:  On foreign policy matters, Romney seems too ready to bomb Iran and he has vowed to label China a currency manipulator, something the U.S. Treasury Department has said China is not.

Government Spending: Although he would slash red tape on the domestic front, Romney said he wants to start with huge tax cuts yet again and dramatically increase defense spending. With what revenues?  Magazine editors said, “He is still in the cloud-cuckoo-land of thinking that America’s finances can be dealt with entirely through spending cuts. Backing business is important, but getting the macroeconomics right matters far more.”

Economy:  Romney has an economic plan that works only if you don’t believe most of what he says.

I want all you Mittenites out there not to worry too much about all these grownups endorsing President Obama. Don’t forget: the Joplin Globe endorsed your guy.

A “Crude And Poisonous” Political Lie

I don’t know how many times I have addressed the falsehood, widely circulated among conservatives and transmitted through talk radio and talk television, that the financial crisis of 2008 was the fault of sappy-hearted Democrats who used government—the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, for instance— to force banks to make loans to poor folks so they could purchase unaffordable homes.

But here we go again. Friday’s Joplin Globe featured an editorial by Jay Ambrose, whose column attacking filmmaker Michael Moore contained the following paragraph, pregnant with deceit:

That’s not to say joblessness doesn’t haunt us. Here’s why: a fiscal crisis brought on by the Federal Reserve and mostly liberals conniving in Congress with Fannie Mae and Wall Street to get mortgages in the hands of people who could not afford them. That gave us a fiscal crisis and a recession made worse by President Obama’s mismanagement of deficits and additional regulations scaring businesses out of expansion.

Now, that is fairly standard bulldook from conservatives, but it seems as if these people really do believe that if they keep passing this stuff off so matter-of-factly that it will actually become a matter of fact.

Fortunately, Friday’s Globe also carried a column by Gene Lyons that began this way:

So here’s my question: If the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 effectively caused the Wall Street meltdown of 2007 by forcing banks to make bad home loans to improvident poor people (and we all know exactly who I mean), how come it took 30 years for the housing bubble to burst?

Next question: If fuzzy-thinking Democratic do-gooders enacted such laws in defiance of common sense and sound economics, why didn’t Republican Presidents Reagan, Bush I or Bush II do something? Was Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., secretly running the country?

Exactly how did the wealthiest and most powerful individuals in the United States — the investment bankers and corporate execs who host the $1,000-a-plate fundraisers, scoop up the Cabinet appointments and ambassadorships, and party down at White House galas — end up having less power over the U.S. economy than unskilled day laborers in Newark, N.J., or Oakland, Calif.?

The columnist went after New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who last week said,

It was not the banks that created the mortgage crisis. It was plain and simple, Congress who forced everybody to go and give mortgages to people who were on the cusp …

Lyons called that “a conspiracy theory so absurd that it had previously been confined to such dark corners of American life as the Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity programs and the Wall Street Journal editorial page.”  He said that Bloomberg couldn’t possibly believe such a “crude and poisonous” political lie.

But it really doesn’t matter much whether Bloomberg believes it.  The point is that he wants you and me to believe it because it is designed to deflect attention away from the banksters in his fair city and elsewhere around the country and around the world.

Lyons makes these devastating points:

♦ …there was no law forcing or even encouraging banks to make shaky loans. The Community Reinvestment Act merely required FDIC-insured institutions to apply the same standards to all borrowers — i.e., no more “redlining.”

♦ …the law applied only to retail banks, never to Wall Street investment houses or mortgage companies…and 84 percent of subprime mortgages were written by private, totally unregulated lenders.

♦ Fannie and Freddie, the quasi-governmental mortgage underwriting companies, don’t actually make loans…Did they buy worthless mortgage-backed securities along with other victimized investors? Yes, but too little and too late to have caused the crisis. Although far from pristine, they were more victims than perps.

Those “worthless mortage-backed securities” were created by the financial industry, cut up and sold by the financial industry, rated as AAA by the financial industry, and insured by the financial industry.

A commenter responding to one of my columns in the paper wrote that it was “government social engineering that started the financial fiasco in the first place.”  Okay. Let’s pretend that statement is true for a second. That’s a little like saying that it was a Chinese butterfly flapping its dainty wings in early May that created the EF-5 tornado that wasted a third of Joplin later that month.  I mean, sure, you could weirdly make the case that an unwitting lepidopteran in Shanghai was responsible for the scorched earth here in our town, but that would leave out a lot of significant intervening events, wouldn’t it?

In the case of the financial disaster, those significant intervening events involved spectacularly stupid—because they were so spectacularly greedy—people on Wall Street and elsewhere. 

I remained amazed at how conservatives have created all kinds of ingenious explanations to explain away one brute fact about the financial crisis: the free market failed to account for and control the behavior of greedy banksters. 

And conservatives in the media continue to hope that repeating their lies about the cause of the crisis will morph not necessarily into the truth, but at least into common wisdom.

Mayor Bloomberg And Zuccotti Park

There are a lot of things to like about New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has a net worth of about a gazillion dollars.  But Bloomberg’s recent response to the ongoing demonstrations on Wall Street, known as OccupyWallStreet, is not one of the things to like.

To be sure, some of the stuff happening in and around the privately-owned Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan is not pretty, but the protests seem to be generated by a what-else-can-we-do frustration with an unsettling fact:  Wall Street banksters nearly brought down the economy and instead of receiving punishment, they were bailed out and subsequently rewarded for their greed and institutional corruption.

That sort of thing tends to piss off working people.

But Bloomberg’s response on Friday was not just off-putting, it was typical of the moneyed class.  The response came during a local radio show, hosted by John Gambling:

GAMBLING: Mr. Mayor, let’s talk about Zuccotti Park and the protesters. How do you end that thing?

BLOOMBERG: The protesters are protesting against people who make $40-50,000-a-year and are struggling to make ends meet. That’s the bottom line. Those are the people that work on Wall Street or on the finance sector…People in this day and age need support for their employers. We need the banks—if the banks don’t go out and make loans we will not come out of our economic problems, we will not have jobs. And so anything we can do to responsibly help the banks do that, encourage them to do that, is what we need.

I think we spend much too much time in this country worrying about how we got into problems as opposed to how we go forward…Also we always tend to blame the wrong people. We blame the banks. They were part of this, but so were Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and Congress and you and me and everybody…

You see?  Forget for a moment the lie about the target of the protesters, which most certainly isn’t the janitors or the doormen or whoever those $40-50,000-a-year folks are that Bloomberg referenced.

Bloomberg is saying that when it comes down to it, everybody is to blame, not just those greedy bankers.  And besides that, we need those greedy bankers because without them our economy won’t work—and “we will not have jobs” and, “People in this day and age need support for their employers.”

So, the gilded-class’ line is, as expressed through Bloomberg’s nothing-to-see-here analysis: We are just supposed to forget about the greed, the corruption, and the criminality in the years leading up to the 2008 near-death of not only our economy, but the world’s. In the name of “jobs,” instead of looking back we should be good little minions and give the banksters our blessing to continue doing to us what they are so good at. 

That kind of thinking, advanced by a man who never has to worry about where his next Delmonico Double Rib Chop will come from, is what has kept working people from getting a proportional piece of the economic pie, and it is why thousands continue to protest in Zuccotti Park and elsewhere.

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