Is Obama Dancing With Them What Brung Him?

Robert Higgs, at The Independent Institute (“Is Obama a Traitor to His Class?” September 3), writes that “the billionaires have a perfect right to feel betrayed.” After they “supported his rise to power … and they bankrolled his election as president,” Obama “has decided to make the Wall Street movers and shakers his whipping boys.” Of course Higgs also mentions, in passing, that he “direct[ed] hundreds of billions of dollars to politically connected firms” in his assorted bailouts.

So you have to wonder if Mr. Higgs is a bit mixed up on the relative importance of words and actions. Frankly, if I were a banker, a billionaire, or a Fortune 500 CEO, I’d consider Obama’s anti-Wall Street rhetoric a pretty modest price to pay for his pro-Wall Street policies.

There’s an old anecdote about Huey Long being approached by a delegation of black leaders, about the need for a public hospital to serve the black community. The Kingfish said, “I’ll get one for you, but you may not like how I do it.” He proceeded to stump for a black public hospital, telling the taxpayers they needed to fund a new separate black hospital so that white nurses, the flower of southern womanhood, wouldn’t have to soil their hands caring for n—–s.

The important point, which Higgs misses, is that all the “progressive” anti-Wall Street rhetoric provides political cover for an essentially pro-banker agenda.

There’s an old saying: Paris is worth a mass. And if you’re a billionaire banker, getting everything you want on a silver platter is worth a little fake populist rhetoric.

Does the phrase “Nixon to China” ring a bell? Back in the Nineties, I recall some left-wing commentator arguing that the moneyed classes switched their backing to Bill Clinton and the New Democrats because their desired agenda — NAFTA, the Uruguay Round of GATT, the DMCA, and the welfare-to-work reform — was something no Republican could get away with. Clinton was the perfect man to push it through, sugar-coated with plenty of lip-biting and soccer mom rhetoric about “America’s working families.”

Likewise, the TARP program rankles liberals a lot less when it’s done with Geithner at the helm than it was under Paulson. But the policy is essentially the same.

If you look behind the rhetoric, the Obama administration’s policies toward Wall Street are about as pro-Wall Street as you can get. They are Hamiltonian to the core: Taxing the American people to buy up bubble-inflated assets from the banks at face value, to keep them from being marked down to their real market value, so the banks will have enough money — if they so choose — to lend some of it back to us at interest.

Hoo-ee, boys! What a Marxist! Sounds like a regular Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, don’t it?

Seriously, with enemies like that, who needs friends?

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