Discordant Lines

by digby

Yesterday, Rahm Emmanuel was quoted saying that the AIG bonus scandal was a distraction and today David Axelrod says,“people are not sitting around their kitchen tables thinking about AIG, they are thinking about their own jobs.”

I don't think this is correct. I have personally heard people talking about this all over the place. Tune into any radio show --- and not just talk radio, but regular music shows --- and it's being discussed. The polls show that people are outraged. I know that Emmanuel and Axelrod aren't stupid so it's surprising to me that they would fall into the trap of minimizing something that has clearly become the symbol of the wealthy fat cats continuing to exploit the average person even after they wrecked the economy. It's remarkably tone deaf.

I know that it's unpleasant to think about all the hatred pouring forth against wealthy, powerful people. It could, after all, very easily spill over into the political class, who are ... wealthy powerful people. But you can't deal with it by acting as if it isn't happening.

To his credit, Obama has been saying the right things although the Republicans are reaching back to the campaign to try to resurrect the inexperienced celebrity charge and imply that Obama isn't working hard enough (which is rich considering the last president.) I don't honestly think people see it that way, but if they get the impression that he is being dismissive of the anger at AIG, it might be problematic.

Meanwhile, you have the press giving unctuous jerks like Mike Pence hours to flounce about superciliously pretending to be shocked by the rapacious Wall Street greedheads when just a couple of months ago they were saying any socialistic meddling in the magical goodness of private enterprise was tantamount to treason. It's quite the show.

Not that the Democrats are doing any better. Charlie Rangel and Norah O'Donnell just did a full Saturday Night Fever-worthy version of The Hustle in which they both huffed and puffed and danced around each other pretending not to know what the other was talking about. It's quite clear that the Dems are protecting the administration --- and the media knows it. But everything is putting on an act --- the press "insisting" on knowing who put the carve out in the bill and the Democrats responding as if they speak a foreign language and are getting a bad translation.

The whole thing is lame. The specific reasons for protecting the bonuses is still unknown, but we know they did it. At this point it's seems to me that the most logical supposition is that the Big Money Boyz are extorting the US Government, threatening to take the house of cards down with them if they don't get a payoff. Either that, or the Fed and the administration actually believe that the alleged masters of the universe who destroyed the financial system are in great demand at other companies somewhere and will leave the US government without the "skills" it needs to lead the economy out of the crisis if they aren't compensated with million dollar bonuses. And if they actually believe that we are in bigger trouble than we realize.

Update: Jane Hamsher details more of the same in this post. She cites a Roll Call article (subs req.) in which it's revealed that the banking lobbyists are swarming the hill trying to derail any restrictions on compensation. She notes that the lobbyists stand to personally gain from many of these bonus plans, which may explain why they are so energetically engaged.

But there's also a passage in the article that supports the "gun to the head" theory:

The swelling anger on Capitol Hill comes as the Obama administration is expected to roll out its plan to purchase toxic assets from the banks in a public-private partnership.

But any move to slap bonus restrictions on private investors that are part of the partnerships could scare them off, lobbyists said.

“If there is any hint that people investing in [Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility] are subject to those rules, they won’t raise any money,” said Ken Kies, a tax lobbyist and managing director of Federal Policy Group.

And to think we liberals were called treasonous when we opposed the invasion of Iraq. These people are not only unpatriotic, they are running a protection racket.

These asses can't compromise for a short period of time to stabilize the system that's made them millionaires and will make them even more money in the long run unless they can turn an immediate profit at it at taxpayers expense? While the average American worker is losing their jobs and homes, foregoing raises and health care and being asked to dramatically lower their expectations? They're sewing the seeds of their own demise. By being so recalcitrant about these bonuses, they may be making it impossible for Obama to maneuver short of nationalization. That's fine with me --- but I don't think that's what they want.

These people are believing their own hype. Apparently, they think they actually produce something when, in fact, they are simply deal makers, middle men, gamblers and paper pushers. Those things are often useful and always present. But the idea that they are indispensable may be just a tad overstated. And they may just find that out.