Authentic and Ignorant

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Coalage's picture

From Joe Klein: http://swampland.blo...s-authenticity/


But Christine O'Donnell is not like that. She is attractive, to some, because she doesn't know anything. She couldn't name a Supreme Court decision she disagreed with, not even Roe v. Wade. There is no way she could ever be confused with a member of the elites; there is no way she could be confused with an above average high school student. Her ignorance, therefore, makes her authentic--the holy grail of latter-day American politics: she's a real person, not like those phony politicians. In that sense, she--and the lifeboat filled with other Tea Party know-nothings--follow in the wake of our leading exemplar of ignorant authenticity, Sarah Palin (who seems every bit as unaware of public policy--she certainly never talks about it--as she was when a desperate and petulant John McCain chose her to be his running mate).

There is something profoundly diseased about a society that idolizes its ignoramuses and disdains its experts. It is a society that no longer takes itself seriously. This is not a complaint about the current Republican tide, by the way: that's part of the natural flow of political life, a result of the economy and the President's abstruse brand of politics. I'll welcome the arrival in Washington of smart Republicans like Ohio's Rob Portman; I won't welcome an ideologue like Rand Paul, but at least he's done some thinking about what constitutes good public policy (although his notion of such is puerile and ultimately fatal to a democracy). A businesswoman like Carly Fiorina certainly has the qualifications to be a Senator, even if you disagree with her politics. Christine O'Donnell does not, nor does Sharron Angle, nor does Ron Johnson in Wisconsin; nor does Carl Paladino have the qualifications to be governor of New York.

But they are all certifiably non-elite. Steve Rattner, on the other hand, is a card-carrying member of the financial elites--and his story may help explain why the public has so little time for the Establishment these days. Rattner is a journalist turned investment banker, an Ivy Leaguer, a denizen of Manhattan's happiest haunts and of summers on Martha's Vineyard, vacation spot of choice for Democratic Presidents. He did a fine job as Barack Obama's auto czar; the GM and Chrysler bailouts seem to be working brilliantly, saving thousands upon thousands of good American jobs. I know Steve pretty well; I've had dinner at his house; we've had good conversations; our kids have played together.

He also is lucky that he's not going to jail. The Securities and Exchange Commission has fined him $5 million and banned him from finance, for a time, because he and his partners apparently attempted to bribe major pension funds in New York to invest with them. From Bob Rubin to Hank Paulson, recent Presidents have turned to financiers who gained fame by making deals rather than by making products (the current Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, never was a Wall Street dealmaker, but he comes from that world). Their disastrous chicanery is part of the reason--a good part of the reason--why voters are rebelling against expertise this year.

It occurs to me that George W. Bush had the right idea the first time around, hiring Paul O'Neill, who came from the world of manufacturing, as his Treasury Secretary--and then, of course, he fired O'Neill, who couldn't stand the irresponsibility of Bush's economic policies.

I am not saying that Steve Rattner is directly to blame for Christine O'Donnell. But he is part of a generation of financiers, the most respected figures in our society, who have been disgraced utterly by their greed and shenanigans--and who have made the world safe for Mama Grizzlies. This is how a great power wanes. This is why Barack Obama's next Treasury Secretary has to be a successful business executive with an unimpeachable record of creating jobs, not financial parlor tricks.


DRC's picture
Here I was, cruising along an

Here I was, cruising along an intelligent and insightful post, typical Coalage btw, and then the prescription for the next Treasury Sec. comes and we get an "unimpeachable record of creating jobs" from the business executive community.  True, nobody doing parlor tricks of finance should be allowed near the office.  The problem is that we do not have many "business execs" who understand the relationship of government to the economy and job creation.  The catechism of corporate business world is bigger than Wall St.

Robert Reich, on the other hand, has a great grasp of what government can do to stimulate and where government can save us by reversing the stupidity of privatization.  His experience is both government and academic, but that does not make him ignorant of the private sector, how it works and what it needs.   Reich is one of many who are not primarily identified as "business leaders" who would be much better at Treasury than anyone from business who has neither an intellectual perspective on economics nor an appreciation of government as a positive player.

We could go all the way and get David Korten whose experience at the World Bank and IMF and Ivy League education fits the DC profile.  Except Korten saw through the failed development theories and went back to school to come up with the answers, and they include "disappearing" Wall St.  On that point, we are deeply united and my point is where we find people free of that corporate capitalist culture?  Most business folk I know are confused about macro policy even as they have legitimate needs on the micro end.  Most still cling to their catechism about the "free market" instead of seeing the State as the context for any economy.  

Coalage's picture
Why can't we get somebody

Why can't we get somebody that has experience in both worlds?

DRC's picture
My point is that academics

My point is that academics and government workers know things outside of the ideological catechism of "commerce."  What I like about Reich is that he has a very practical idea about work and workers and is not beguiled by the metaphysics of financialism.  He would be very good for honest business.

If you can find a corporate citizen with a good grasp of political economy and a commitment to economic justice, I am open to looking at individuals with an open mind.  But the general call for business experience is akin to the idea the principals for schools can come from the military or business instead of knowing anything about education.  Business experience is not enough to understand political economics or how to administer a governmental unit.  It might be, but it would have to be proved outside and beyond the stereotype.

Governments and business have

Governments and business have similarities, and also have different functions.

Carrying over a business mentality into government of reducing wages to increase profits is currently national policy. Thus outsourcing,, expansion of credit rather than wages, and an unwillingness to prop up failing state governments. They are looked upon as  failing "businesses" rather than as victims of an accelerating economic collapse.

The U.S. Senate is primarily from the business/investment class. How are we faring under that? Thriving financiers and Main Street spiraling into collapse.

The business mentality is to privatize and make non-profit government enterprises profitable. Dams, schools, highways, fire departments, etc

.Bolivia was even talked into privatizing its rainfall!  They took it back under Pres.  Morales and Bechtel Corp. was left holding an empty bucket. The U.S. responded by re-activating the 4th Fleet and landing marines in Costa Rica.. Business mentality...all of it..

They even have governments borrowing money into existence rather than simply spending it into existence. Same quantities. One way costs taxpayers doesn't. Business mentality.

Retired Monk - "Ideology is a disease".


Quote:But Christine O'Donnell

But Christine O'Donnell is not like that. She is attractive, to some, because she doesn't know anything.


...know-nothings--follow in the wake of our leading exemplar of ignorant authenticity, Sarah Palin (who seems every bit as unaware of public policy--she certainly never talks about it


There is something profoundly diseased about a society that idolizes its ignoramuses and disdains its experts.


Oh lawdy, I know I'm about to get a backlashing for this but... goes:

It doesn't seem to be about intelligence. In fact, to be honest - I don't even think it has to do with governance at all. It seems to me this strange development seems to be more about some sort of twisted emergence of new facet of ID driven fandom. 

for example:





douglaslee's picture
I like Reich, [a variation on

I like Reich, [a variation on an oldie but goodie slogan] and Stiglitz, and Korten, and Dean Baker, and Hudson, and Simon Johnson. They all know the problems, and the solutions. Financial parlor tricks, economic whack-a-mole is pathetic, but Bernanke is trying to pump up the balloon one more time, and it may work for a smaller and smaller slice of the economy, for a shorter and shorter cycle.

To instill confidence one solution not mentioned is to start putting some people in jail, like they did under Reagan and the S&L crisis. Black is still around to be tapped, and the perp walks, and show trials could be covered live. Reality TV has no shortage of producers.

Bernanke may suggest a move to suspend fica for two years, at the same time buying treasuries, quantitative easing. A target date specific tax increase on the high end with corporate increase on the same date would test the validity of the laffer curve. Immediate increase in the amount of income subject to fica would also be a good move. Suspend fica for everyone on the first 100K for two years, but the cap now at 150K means the 50k above the 100k cap is not exempt.

Bernanke plans