May 3, 2012

Wall Street as Electoral Power Source

The big read today is Nick Confessore's lovely piece in the New York Times Magazine about the big Wall Street financiers who are deserting President Obama in droves:
For the next hour, the donors relayed to Messina what their friends had been saying. They felt unfairly demonized for being wealthy. They felt scapegoated for the recession. It was a few weeks into the Occupy Wall Street movement, with mass protests against the 1 percent springing up all around the country, and they blamed the president and his party for the public’s nasty mood. The administration, some suggested, had created a hostile environment for job creators. [...]
Obama far outraised his Republican rival, John McCain, on Wall Street — around $16 million to $9 million — and Goldman Sachs executives sent Obama more money than employees of any other company in the world. But four years, one recession and a host of battles — over financial regulation and the nomination of Elizabeth Warren, over Dodd-Frank and the Buffett Rule — have taken their toll. Some on Wall Street are apoplectic. One former supporter, Dan Loeb, compared Obama to Nero; the president’s enemies insinuated worse. In 2010, Stephen A. Schwarzman, a founder of Blackstone, said that an Obama proposal to raise taxes on “carried interest” — the main source of income for most private-equity managers — reminded him of “when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.” [...]
The huge gulf in super PAC donations terrified the Obama campaign. If they wanted, financiers could pour unlimited money into Restore Our Future, meaning that voters in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania might see nothing but negative ads about the president from September through Election Day. (It’s no wonder that the Obama team has already held more major fund-raisers than George W. Bush did during the entire 2004 campaign.)
Of course, Obama is still pulling in huge sums, though it looks like Romney will probably out-raise him with Wall Street financiers. But it seems to me that there are two political miscalculations being made here. The first is from the Obama team, which seems to have over-estimated the value of money for a sitting president. Thanks to Citizens United, the political world is being flooded with money, which would seem to diminish the marginal utility of the normal kind of political convincing that one can buy with money. I mean, suppose the Wall Street titans buy up literally every second of ad time from September to election day in all swing states. Would that guarantee Romney victory? Or would voters just be pissed off at never getting a moment's rest from Romney's smiling visage? The idea that there might be a diminishing or negative return to endless propaganda, or that the politicians are being fleeced by their campaign people, never seems to cross anyone's mind.

The second mistake, which is probably more important, is that these Wall Street cretins have no idea what real people think of them. They're completely out of touch. Closing the carried interest loophole is like Hitler's invasion of Poland? WTF?? These clueless chumps are just begging to be demagogued, and it's quite clear that nothing Obama can do short of publicly licking their boots twice weekly would satisfy their bloated egos. If the president really went on a tear against them*, it seems highly likely that they would badly over-react and provide more outrageous fodder for the opposition. Plus, if he stopped worrying so much about Wall Street money, (or, heaven forbid, stopped taking it altogether), he could then run against the fat-catness of the the fat-cat funded former fat-cat vulture capitalist who makes a "sweet baby Jesus I'm rich" gaffe every third breath.

Now, it would have to be rather mild-mannered and serious sounding, because Democrats don't react well to spit-flecked tirades, but it should be an easy needle to thread. Just imagine:
If saying that a hedge fund manager who makes $30 million a year should pay the same tax rate as a public school teacher causes a hedge fund manager make comparisons to Hitler's invasion of Poland, then that tells me the financial class in this country has lost its collective mind. They are parasites, who make their money largely by directing the concentrated output of thousands of hardworking Americans into their own pockets though complex financial chicanery, and it's time they were taken down to size.
The speeches almost write themselves!

*Obviously, Obama has been captured by the financial elites, and won't do anything like this. But what gives me hope is the tremendous power that awaits someone who would. This generation's potential FDR is probably cheating on his wife somewhere, just waiting to make this realization.

1 comment:

  1. An early Obama error (rookie mistake in '09) was scheduling a meeting with the heads of the biggest banks and then accepting the excuse that one of them could not make it to the White House because of bad weather (fog).

    The President should simply have said ''I've asked the others to wait--get here as soon as you can,'' and gone about the business of his day until the arrogant banker made it to DC.

    The message would have been clear--the President is more important that any banker and the world would, by now, be quite different.

    Instead, the bankers have continued their vampirism and whine constantly about being demonized (well, they are demons.)

    Perhaps Obama will get a second chance.