Nothing To Fear But Idiots On TV

by digby

On the heels of Larry Summers' speech today, Matthews chattered a bit about optimism and the Ballyhoo Boys (as he called the administration.) He also observed that people understand Bernie Madoff is a crook, compared it to the economy as a whole and wondered if maybe the whole economy was a ponzi scheme. It was actually mildly interesting, for him anyway. But soon, it devolved into this predictable predigested mishmash:

Robert Kaiser, Washington Post editor and author of "So Damn Much Money": Summers implied that we're not greedy anymore and I wonder. Look at all these earmarks in the omnibus spending bill...

Matthews: same old games

Kaiser: same old games, and that's depressing that so many member of congress are acting as if it's no big deal

Fineman: it's not only depressing it's counterproductive because if the new mantra is that we have to live within our means then congress has to do it too and we all have to pitch in, there has to be some ..

Matthews: right

Fineman: real hard choices made. The president keeps saying we're going to have to make hard choices. Which choices are they and how is the congress making them?

Matthews: He comes into office with all the priestly vestments and all the rustle of vestments in the sanctuary, this is all going to be clean and perfect. And all of a sudden he comes up against Nancy Pelosi and all the people on the hill who have their own agenda and spending dreams, which is years and years of pent up desire to spend money. Right? And they did it. And if we have another stimulus bill it'll happen again. And business is looking at it and saying they're just a greedy as we are, they just don't have the income we have.

Right, the stimulus and budget bills are exactly like Bernie Madoff's ponzi scheme and greedy hedge fund operators incomprehensible financial instruments. Ok.

As for Fineman, I can't help but scream at the TV when I see this kind of commentary, "what do you mean we, jackass?" Here we have wealthy, elite celebrities incessantly complaining that the American people aren't being asked to sacrifice enough. As if a huge number aren't losing their homes and their jobs --- or are desperately afraid they are going to. As if virtually every average worker who was saving for their retirement isn't looking at a decimated savings. As if average people aren't being crushed by the costs of college and health care and debt they built up over years of income stagnation just to keep from falling behind. Yes, Americans have spent too much. But that spending is what propped up this bubble (or succession of bubbles) for years and nobody was telling them to do otherwise. In fact it was the opposite --- you were a sucker if you didn't get in the game.

And Jesus H. Christ, do these people really believe that the way to save the economy is for the government to punish average citizens some more in the name of "shared sacrifice?" Somehow, I don't think the shared sacrifice is defined in quite the same way for the average middle class American as it is for Chris Matthews and his pals. After all, he makes five million dollars a year. I'm sure his portfolio has taken a hit and I'm sure he he feels he is suffering, but a family of four that's lost two thirds of its $50,000 annual income isn't likely to see their immediate fear and pain as being fully comparable to that felt by TV celebrities whose vast holdings have been somewhat reduced. What's really being "shared," other than the idea that rich people shouldn't have to pay taxes and everyone else should prepare to die young?

Fineman, like so many of his fellows, is obsessed with this idea that the American people have to make "hard choices" --- which translates into "entitlement" reform and reining in government spending, both of which are completely out of the question in this environment for both economic and moral reasons. It's easy for him to say it with such pious certainty. He's wealthy. It's understandable that he and all of his friends are concerned about their future, as everyone is, but that just isn't on the same level of suffering and insecurity as those who are cutting back on their groceries or having to negotiate with their doctors over which tests they can afford to get to find out if they have cancer.

Like most villagers, both Fineman and Matthews think they are regular working class guys who have the standing to lecture other Americans about sacrifice. But they sound like tin-eared fools to the audience outside their own rarified circle. Aside from the sheer economic ignorance of such statements, it once again demonstrates their distance from the lives of the average Americans they purport to represent. (It reminds me of a very liberal writer I once encountered who casually told me that one simply couldn't live in LA on less than 300k a year. I honestly didn't know how to reply since I've been here for nearly 25 years and never made anything close to that. Apparently, I'm not "living.")

These upper class celebrities going on and on about earmarks and the unholy Pelosi's supposed profligacy in the same breath with which they condemn wall street hustlers and wealthy con artists is just dishonest --- and cruel. Only the most regressive Randian wingnuts see congress funding useful projects in their districts as "stealing," especially at a time when government spending is is the only thing that's keeping the economy from sinking into a depression. And the sacrifice they demand will be felt by their unwealthy fellow citizens as serious pain at a time when they are already suffering from the vagaries of the unregulated capitalistic free-for-all these wealthy elites cheered on for the past twenty years.

Right now it would be wise for the rich and famous to keep a very low profile as they sit poolside at their mansions fretting about runaway "entitlements." It brings to mind certain unpleasant historical parallels that make one think of guillotines or beerhalls and the like, which could lead to all sorts of unintended consequences for everyone.