Saturday, November 26, 2011

Why Bloomberg Wants a Third Candidate for President

So here's this article from the Washington Post telling how Michael Bloomberg and a group calling itself America Elects wants to run a third person for president in 2012:

The theory seems to be that both parties are equally to blame for the fact that the United States government isn't working too well these days. This is another example of the "both sides are equally to blame" school of political analysis that seems so prevalent today. (Here is a good critique of this group by the Washington Monthly.)

What I find interesting isn't the fact that such a group exists but that N.Y.C. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is involved. This is a guy who is very, very rich. He is a person who is socially liberal but pretty conservative fiscally. So why is he involved in this project?

My theory is that he wants to defeat Obama and help the GOP nominee, which will probably be Romney. I think that he knows that Obama is likely to beat Romney and wants to make sure that voters who don't like Romney have someplace else to go besides Obama. Or that voters who aren't as conservative as the GOP but don't like Obama have someplace else to go.

Why would he do that? Because like a lot of fiscal conservatives he wants to make major changes to social programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. He wants to make sure that Wall Street isn't regulated and he wants to get back at Obama for his support of the Dodd-Franks financial regulation bill.

It is interesting to note that the politicians mentioned in this article, Bloomberg and Whitman, are what used to be called "moderate" Republicans. That fact alone would make me suspicious of this group's intentions.

This group already has ballot space lined up for Florida, Ohio, Nevada, and Michigan. All states that are expected to be battleground states in 2012 and all states that Obama carried in 2008. Although the article mentions that it is headed for the ballot in other unnamed states, it is fascinating that the only states mentioned are states that are crucial to Obama's re-election strategy.

This group has also registered itself as a "social welfare" organization so that it can avoid making its donors public. So what we have is a group which has prominent former GOP elected officials working to run a candidate for president in critical states that won't tell us who its contributors are or how much they gave. And we are supposed to believe that this group doesn't have a partisan agenda?

By the way if you think that I am needlessly worried about this group getting candidates on the ballot in states like Ohio,think about this: Nader got George W. Bush elected in 2000 by getting less than 5% of the vote in Florida.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Wall Street’s Hippie Culture

It has been amusing to me to hear some of Wall Street’s current crop of Masters of the Universe dismiss the Occupy Wall Street protestors as a “bunch of hippies”. What is funny about their doing so is this.

At age 67, I am old enough to have known some actual hippies and their philosophy, which they often distilled down to the single expression: “Do your own thing, man.” But isn’t that precisely what these investment bankers also offered—and still are offering—as their own philosophy, and isn’t it that philosophy which got us into the terrible economic mess the OWS people are now protesting?

It certainly seems so to me. What the investment bankers and their apologists told us again and again over the past three decades is that regulatory restraints on their behavior were bad. They repeatedly told us that if they were simply allowed to do their own thing that something they called “the market” would prevent them from engaging in antisocial behavior and that a great and widely-shared prosperity would result.

So deeply did they believe in this philosophy that they set about creating think tanks and resident experts to push the philosophy in the news media and before congressional committees and in other forums. They drew upon wealthy ultraconservative financial backers to provide the financial support for their proselytizing on behalf of this philosophy. And so persistent were they in their efforts that their philosophy, at first gradually and then with ever-greater force, took hold across our entire society as one after another restraint on their behavior was either prevented from coming into existence or wiped from the books.

As do many proselytizers, they needed an old written and somewhat inaccessible text to use in offering appeals to authority in response to common-sense questions about why their philosophy should be followed. To meet this need, they offered up The Wealth of Nations and its decent and careful author, Adam Smith.

But, as often happens when an old text is used to justify a new philosophy, they quoted the text and its author selectively. In fact, they were so selective that, to listen to these anti-government types describe them, all of Adam Smith’s philosophy and all of his 600-page treatise came down to the single concept of the invisible hand. They insisted that Smith’s philosophy was the following: everyone should just pursue his or her own individual self-interest and that the result would be generalized prosperity. In other words, they said, Smith’s message was that we should all just do our own thing.

So successful were they on pushing this concept that the average American has no idea that Smith also favored usury laws and bank regulation and a tax system under which the rich paid a higher tax rate than those making less than them–or that he worried that the government might become the captive of the wealthy and be used largely to protect their property interests instead of promoting the public good.

And so it came to pass that the investment bankers were allowed to do their own thing and create the terrible economic mess we have on our hands today: the very mess that the people in the park are protesting, the very mess which we taxpayers across the country had to rescue them from, the very mess which cost so many people their jobs and their pensions and their homes.

But even after this massive and very public failure of their philosophy, from the lofty heights of their glass towers the bankers look down on the protestors with disdain and call them hippies.

There is much irony in this, isn’t there?

For while I didn’t much agree with the philosophy of the original hippies, at least I’ll give them this: unlike this bespoke-suited new generation of hippies, they didn’t go running to the government to save them if their philosophical choices ended up making a mess of their lives.

David N. Brown

Medina, Ohio