Can Matt Taibbi really be that naive?
Bring out my fainting couch, Matt Taibbi has just revealed that in America, in AMERICA!, people who make a lot of money via corporate chicanery can often get away with it. Of course, it’s President Obama’s fault too.
Indeed, the shocking pattern of nonenforcement with regard to Wall Street is so deeply ingrained in Washington that it raises a profound and difficult question about the very nature of our society: whether we have created a class of people whose misdeeds are no longer perceived as crimes, almost no matter what those misdeeds are.
Like many “progressives”, Taibbi substitutes indignation for knowledge. Jay Gould, the Thomas Edison of stock fraud who once boasted he could break strikes by hiring half the working class to kill the other half died rich and honored. JP Morgan - Mr. Inside Trader was King of New York for most of his life. John D. Rockefeller who was a master of kickbacks and corporate fraud and sent thugs to machine gun striking workers went to jail, let me see, NEVER! Michael Milken walked out of a 2 year minimum security jail sentence, the result of 90 count indictment on securities fraud, to pick up his $2Billion and is now listed as a “philanthropist”. Milkin’s bosses never were even the subject of a serious criminal investigation. In the phony 1970s “budget crisis” New York bankers openly looted the city budget and the retirement funds of city workers and the only people who went to jail were protesters. The banks that funded Enron walked away scot-free. The only non-peon to go to jail for the S&L crisis had his conviction overturned. The basic operation of PE firms is ripping off creditors especially old people depending on pension payments that were negotiated as contracts but are not respected by bankruptcy courts. That getting away with theft business is not new on Wall Street. Hold your hat, Matt, those guys in Nigeria don’t actually intend to send you money either! How’s that for a shock? None of this would matter much, if Taibbi’s overwrought shlock shock was not waved around in the service of the destructive “progressive” disappointment narrative. Woo! Woe!, Obama has been in office two whole years and still, still, after all this time, capitalism is unfair! I am so so so disappointed. Why bother to vote for these frauds - they are the same as Republicans. That’s the “progressive” disappointment narrative, loved by Republican strategists.
As for President Obama, what is there to be said? Goldman Sachs was his number-one private campaign contributor.
Not quite, sleazeball. Goldman Sachs, pre-Citizens United, was not able to give money to candidates directly. What Tabbi calls donations from Goldman are actually donations from Goldman employees and the PAC. And the PAC didn’t give Obama any money. Who did the execs give to? Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO gave Obama zero dollars. His favorite candidates were Hillary Clinton and Richard Shelby, the Confederate Senator from Alabama. The top three heavy hitters from the executive suites over the last 10 years are Todd Christie (brother of the NJ governor) who gives 98% to Republicans (John Kerry got a little), Dan Cook (99% R), and Jon Corzine (who didn’t give Obama a penny either). So while traders gave Obama some money in 2008, he also got a lot of money from janitors and secretaries who worked at Goldman Sachs. And note that “number-one private campaign contributor” to get around the inconvenient fact that the employer with the largest sum of donations to the Obama campaign was the University of California. President Obama, the favorite candidate of teachers and clerical staff - doesn’t have the same lurid implications. This information is easy to find, but the narrative of Obama being the annointed Goldman Sachs candidate is not disturbed by mere facts. Taibbi’s next paragraph is even better:
Which is not to say that the Obama era has meant an end to law enforcement.[..] In Ohio last month, a single mother was caught lying about where she lived to put her kids into a better school district; the judge in the case tried to sentence her to 10 days in jail for fraud, declaring that letting her go free would “demean the seriousness” of the offenses.
A journalist with some ethics might balk at creating the impression that President Obama is responsible for the actions of a County Prosecutor and municipal judge. Or the revival of the Civil Rights bureau of the Department of Justice under Obama might be considered worthy of mention or … But, you might ask, isn’t there any room for a left-wing critique of the Obama Administration? Well, sure, but for that you’d need some left-wing politics - like a commitment to human rights over property rights and opposition to the right wing identification of property laws with liberty. You won’t find that in Taibbi. This is what you find:
But these frauds are worse than common robberies […] They’re attacking the very definition of property — which, after all, depends in part on a legal system that defends everyone’s claims of ownership equally. When that definition becomes tenuous or conditional — when the state simply gives up on the notion of justice — this whole American Dream thing recedes even further from reality.
Goodness! Maybe we need a rule: if you are going to play “progressive” commentator in the media, you should pass an exam on Howard Zinn’s popular history book. From the founding of a nation where black Americans were property to the modern day when bankruptcy courts believe that contract obligations to company pensioners and unions are just suggestions, we have never had a legal system that defends everyone’s claims of ownership equally. Never. In fact, the idea that the “definition of property” depends on some notion of justice makes no sense at all.
I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered
That was Martin Luther King. MLK actually had a left wing critique because he knew some history, understood power, and had a moral commitment to human rights.
Communism forgets that life is individual. Capitalism forgets that life is social, and the kingdom of brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of communism nor the antithesis of capitalism but in a higher synthesis. It is found in a higher synthesis that combines the truths of both. Now, when I say question the whole society, it means ultimately coming to see that the problem of racism, the problem of exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. These are the triple evils that are interrelated.
The people who claim to speak for “progressive” America today are generally privileged enough to have an illusion about what is normal. They have a shallow and unreal view of what can be done and how easy it is. They do not understand, or pretend not to understand how the power structure works in America. And their bitter “disappointment” that Obama has not made their delusion into reality is the best hope of the far right. The “progressive” marketing of disillusion and disappointment, apathy and defeat, is their margin of victory.
When our days become dreary with low hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.