Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Who is in Charge?

Banks Show Clout on Legislation to Help Consumers -
"During the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama made an issue of what he considered excessive credit card fees, but he has been largely silent on the matter since his arrival in Washington. As a candidate, he also favored legislation to make it easier for troubled homeowners to use bankruptcy court to ease the terms of their mortgages, a proposal he again endorsed last month.

Despite the president’s support and strong Democratic majorities in Congress, both proposals are in jeopardy because of lobbying by banks and their trade groups, particularly in the Senate. . .

The banking industry has also succeeded in working closely with Republicans to water down and then block a measure that would give bankruptcy judges greater authority to modify mortgages, including reducing principal payments. Senate Republican leaders say they have the support of all 41 of their members — enough to kill the provision by making it impossible to get the 60 votes necessary to cut off debate. . . Republican supporters of the industry have been helped in part by the decision by some Democratic campaign committees, fearful of voter reaction, to reject contributions from banks that have received bailout money.

Some prominent Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, also are refusing donations from bank political action committees. Mr. Frank will not take money from employees of banks that received bailout funds.

Republicans “are never going to beat the Democrats in the fund-raising game in D.C. as long as they are the minority,” said Sam Geduldig, a lobbyist for several banking trade associations at Clark Lytle & Geduldig. “To the extent the Republicans can show they can impact policy, it causes professional donors and lobbyists to look at them in a different light, as opposed to when they just got bludgeoned” in the last election."

Partisan politics is a competition. As long as the Republicans can win this game, by serving the plutocracy, the plutocracy will be in charge.

Talk of the importance of campaign contributions is really just a sideward glance at the importance of the Media in campaigns, and the fecklessness of the People.

This blog had a simple premise: policy has consequences -- and the Bush Administration was engaged, in 2004 and earlier, in the worst of bad policy, policy bound to have bad consequences. Yet, Bush was elected in 2004. And, so the consequences would come, and create a political storm, and the political storm would consist of those consequences, and the moral fables told about those consequences: the People would learn once again, however imperfectly, some political wisdom. In the face of economic collapse, worry about gay marriage and the importance of torturing Al Quaeda suspects would lose some of its purchase.

The stories mediate the consequences. The political storm consists not of the raw consequences of bad policy, but of the stories: who gets blamed. The Right has invested in a massive industry of storytellers -- in the Media, in Academe, in the so-called think-tanks. Against them, the Left has had the rising blogosphere, and the Sword of Truth (they've been right about everything).

But, still the main action in politics remains campaign contributions.

The Media is the ultimate recipient of those contributions -- they buy advertising; much of the political news media exist to make campaign advertising absolutely necessary, by making sure no one has any idea what politicians of either Party are up to, in relation to the substance of politics. As long as the Media, in its self-appointed role as Tribunes of the People, can be so easily distracted by such controversies as whether Obama smiled when he shook hands with Chavez, and people are disinterested in, or simply confused by, the kind of straightforward political reporting that's been done in this article in the New York Times, then our politics will be dictated by cleverness in 30-second teevee ads.

Poltics is about money and power. Politics is about how much people pay in credit card fees and whether bankruptcy law is going to be fair and rational -- or cruel and arbitrary.

Too many people simply refuse to face the reality. And, too many turn away in righteous disgust. Too many simply do not get it. Too many do not see that they have a choice, here.

The Democrats are not saints, or monks. They are doing their best to make a "business model" based on actually caring, somewhat, about fairness to the middle class pay off in democratic politics, in a country where most people have no idea what is going on, because of 24/7 Cable News. The other side is working on a "business model", where they cater to the needs and interests of the class of overpaid corporate executives, who are the most active campaign donors, and where a bunch of morons, clinging to their bibles and guns can be manipulated by one transparent "outrage" after another, fed to them by Lou Dobbs or Rush Limbaugh or some idiot Christian preacher. And, if anything political or economic news gets past the "outrage" of the week, there's a handy second team of libertarians, many of them academics, willing to say anything to provide political cover and short-circuit informative debate, from their well-paid perches at the Council on Foreign Relations, the Hoover Institution, George Mason and the University of Chicago, Heritage and AEI, etc. And, should I mention the third team of neo-liberal chumps, paid to be interlocutors to the second team?

There's a process of electoral selection at work in democratic politics, and in a game of survival of the fittest, politicians, who serve the plutocracy feel fit, very fit indeed.

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