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BAILOUT: Former Bailout Watchdog Neil Barofsky to Release Tell-All Account Of Bush/Obama Administration Banking Policies

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Neil Barofsky, a former official who actually put bankers in jail (imagine that!) is coming out with a tell-all book called “Bailout” about his experience as the Special Inspector General for TARP.  I don’t normally put up press releases, but this book will be upsetting to the administration because this is someone who was involved in the decisions, and Barofsky did not play ball with the Wall Street crowd.  Here’s the announcement.

From December 2008 until March 2011, Barofsky was the Special Inspector General charged with oversight of TARP, working to ensure against fraud and abuse in the spending of the $700 billion allocated for the bailouts. From the start he was in constant conflict with the officials at the Treasury Department in charge of the bailouts who were in thrall to the interests of the big banks and steadfastly failed to hold them accountable, even as they disregarded major job losses caused by the auto bailouts and failed to help struggling homeowners. Barofsky recounts how his reports of a wave of criminal mortgage fraud and other abuses being perpetrated against homeowners in connection with programs that the Treasury itself set up were ignored time and again.

Barofsky offers detailed accounts of the behind-the-scenes conflicts and his struggles with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the Bush appointed “TARP Czar” Neel Kashkari and his successor, the Obama appointed Herb Allison, and others. His revelations show in stark detail just how captured by Wall Street our political system is; why the banks have not been held accountable; and how the failure to enact effective regulation has put the country in danger of an even bigger crisis in the future.

There are two broad narratives about Barack Obama from American elites.  On the right, there’s a racist narrative about Obama’s socialist Kenyan origins, with offshoot dishonest arguments about his policies.  He’s anti-corporate!  He’s gone on a government spending frenzy!  He’s going to cut the size of the military!  These are not true.  On the Democratic side, there’s an equally dishonest set of arguments.  He’s not bold enough!  Congress is holding him back from his progressive instincts!  We haven’t made him do what we know he wants to do!  The real Obama is hidden behind a racist veneer on the right, that he’s a Kenyan socialist, and a fake narrative on the left, that he’s not bold enough.  The third narrative, which you can find on this blog, is that Barack Obama is a great deceiver, with a charming and cool demeanor that mask his ruthlessness and bank-friendly neoliberal ideology.  It’s hard to talk to this third narrative, because Democrats overwhelmingly approve of Obama, and Republicans simply cannot countenance the idea that their socialist enemy is as friendly or even more friendly to corporate power than they are.

But there are a few brave souls who are speaking truth, and the information about who Obama is and what he has done is slowly coming out.  Charles Ferguson’s excellent new book, Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America, is the first post-mortem of the financial crisis in which the lens is political corruption in both parties and in economics.  Ferguson, who made the Academy Award documentary Inside Job, sees the financial crisis first and foremost as a political problem, of oligarchy and a captured political system.  The technical details – Volcker Rule, Dodd-Frank, etc – are just that.  Ferguson isn’t dancing around the problem, either.  He puts the blame on, among other people, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.  I’ll have more on this book.

Still, very few elite actors are actually giving talking to this third narrative.  We can see this in the 2012 election, in which, for all its fake heat, Romney and Obama are both trying as best they can to nose each other out, while promising virtually nothing of economic substance to the public.  Romney and Obama are simply talking to economic elites who will pay them off - occasionally this becomes obvious, as we’re seeing with a recent flap over private equity.  Corey Booker’s comments, when he called attacks on private equity “nauseating”, brought in a brief flash to the public the hidden election of elites behind the scenes making decisions about who to back and why.  In the actually race itself, the polling is dead even, and has been since Romney consolidated the nomination.  Neither candidate has much power to shift the polls, except through gruesome errors or by talking to voters instead of the economically powerful interests who fund them.  The latter won’t happen, the former might.  At this point, Alexis Tsipras in Greece and Angela Merkel have more power over the American election than either candidate.

The reality is that it is the strength of Obama’s narrative, and the lack of a left-wing analysis of who he is as a person, that gives Obama all the cover he needs to enact bank-friendly policies.  You can see this strength in the utter lack of an effective comedic impersonator of Barack Obama.  When Tina Fey first gave her impression of Sarah Palin, the political world exploded in chatter about how perfectly Fey had captured Palin’s character.  Will Ferrell nailed something about Bush (as did my favorite impressionist, James Adomian), a kind of juvenile cunning frat-boy type spirit.  American comics play the role of the jester, and are sometimes the only ones who can speak truth to power.  The comedy world has produced a series of people who can mimic what Obama sounds like, but these people tend to see him as having a heart of gold and hiding his anger at the Republicans.  There is no comedian who has captured the breezy self-aware cynicism, the way that Obama dishonestly promises actions he does not intend to follow through on, while giving a sort of running commentary as a meta-pundit on himself and the political system.

A third narrative needs to emerge.  A true impression of Obama would be both devastating and hilarious.  It would also require a profound level of bravery and skill to showcase a picture of the first black President as a corrupt plutocrat.  This lack of comedic insight is directly related to the broader phenomenon of American elite dishonesty about Barack Obama.  Comedians get their information largely from the news, and from elite actors who tell them about what is going on.  As more people who have direct experience with the administration, people like Barofsky, give clear details about the policy choices (and they are choices, the system is not set in stone) that this administration made, the strength of Obama’s narrative will erode.

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77 comments

  1. David Brooky

    “The third narrative, which you can find on this blog, is that Barack Obama is a great deceiver” Well, it’s on other blogs too. I can barely what for the “infotainment” that will tack onto this post: “You’d rather have Romney would’ya?”
    No not really, I’d prefer either resignation, or impeachment for an extensive list of war crimes, attacks on civil liberties, and so on.

    1. MacCruiskeen

      They aren’t identical in every way, even though they aren’t much different on key economic issues. I’d say Obama is worse than Romney seems like he would be on certain security issues; i.e., abuse of civil rights in the name of security. Romney is almost certainly more regressive on many social issues, though Obama has not made this a priority. Romney elected: kiss what remains of protections for clean air, water, etc., goodbye. Romney’s VP choice may be an indication of how far he is willing to go to suck up to the evangelical wing of the GOP. Fascism v. Theocracy: a choice coming to a voting booth near you!

      1. TK421

        “Romney elected: kiss what remains of protections for clean air, water, etc., goodbye.”

        Read up on the Keystone XL pipeline which Obama will almost certainly approve in a second term. If that gets built, the environment takes a dagger in its heart.

        1. Veri

          And the Canadian company that is wanting to build it speaks of how pipeline will INCREASE gasoline prices in the US. A key reason for them building it. The company also states that they will be using Canadian workers as much as possible.

          Ah, the smell of corporate profits: they must continue to climb or stock prices go down.

        2. MacCruiskeen

          Maybe so, but for Romney, doing away with environmental protections will be a platform promise.

        3. LucyLulu

          Romney will also immediately approve the Keystone so it looks like we’re getting another pipeline in our backyard.

          If Obama wants to win, and I’m quite sure he does, he needs to run some ads with before and after pictures of Alberta and the tar sands oil extractions, then promise to veto the pipeline. You don’t need to be an environmentalist to be appalled by the irreversible devastation they are causing to a pristine area the size of Florida. Meanwhile, there are stories out about new breakthoughs being made in the clean renewables like solar, wind, and fusion technologies. In another 10 years, our need for energy from petroleum sources may have fallen dramatically.

      2. Martin Finnucane

        I must say, Mac, I appreciate your screen name. Flann O’Brien’s comic-nightmare vision of eternal damnation suits us.

    2. mcarson

      It’s important to KNOW who Obama is. I don’t think he’s corrupt, as in “on the take” – but he is deeply wrong. It’s important to know if the man you vote for is looking out for you, or if you need to watch your back. You don’t have to vote for Romney, you just have to watch your own back, because Obama isn’t going to. He might do the right thing, but he’s no savior

      1. JEHR

        I see Obama as “The Great Orator.” Nothing he says needs to be based on reality; the sounds must just dazzle and all the tools of persuasion must be used.

        Oratory skill is Obama’s strongest suit. He has all the classical skills of a rhetorician which few people have or use. The list of skills can be found here: http://hhs-english-iv.wikispaces.com/file/view/Rhetorical+Devices.pdf

        Maybe we should only read his speeches instead of listening to them. But in the end, he is a man who has to be judged only by the actions that he takes or does not take.

    3. LeonovaBalletRusse

      The third narrative can be spoken poignantly by Eddie Murphy. Maybe a comic film, “Trading Places: the Sequel,” will find its way to screens in time.

  2. Maju

    You’re saying the truth, Matt: Obama is not to the right of Romney but neither to his left, they are nearly identical and it doesn’t matter who you vote in fact.

    Unless you vote third option, I guess. The only interest of these elections seems not to find out who’s the Green presidential candidate and if they can muster the protest vote. They already gathered more than 10% in Maine and Illinois and as much as 21% in Colorado in 2006.

    If Roseanne Barr (I mention her just because she’s popular, I have no well-pondered preferences) gets the nomination who would you vote: the Black Tweedledee, the Mormon Tweedledoom… or her?

    1. Cannabis

      It’s a distraction – it is much more important to get folks like Kent Conrad, Max Baucus, Schumer, Nelson, etc tossed out of office, but nearly as unlikely. A rebel must go even more local, make sure local status quo/tax baggers are punished at the polls. Presidential elections are for drunks, addicts and the establishment typists.

    2. nonclassical

      maju,

      olde union insider-”It’s not so important WHO votes, nor how MANY vote…

      as who COUNTS the vote-with voting machine fraud rampant, there is no more
      “vote”…Sequoia voting machines in Wisconsin for example, will throw Scott Walker the elections…

      after they do, do your Sequoia voting machine research..even though it won’t matter..

  3. Ms G

    I’ve been hoping that Barofsky was working on a book about his experience as SIGTARP. I can’t wait for it to come out.

    I am also hoping against hope that this will not be another case of Schneiderman-ism, wherein the appearance of standing up to corrupt law enforcement is nothing but a costume worn in a bigger P.R. Play directed by the Oligarch 2-Legacy-Party State.

    1. Leviathan

      I agree. Did you ever read one of his reports as SIGTARP? They don’t feel like bureaucratic mush at all. People suffer, banks don’t care, government pretends to but mostly mouths platitudes and never backs them us…riveting stuff.
      I will buy this book. Just wish the title was not another variation on “…out”. How about “Nobody in Washington Gives a F* About Your Problems”? Catchy, no?

      1. Ms G

        Barofsky found himself early and often facing the business-end of Geithner-White House bare knuckled tactics, likely because he was doing the very job he was hired to do and because he was doing it effectively, and (lest we forget a non-minor detail) with a demonstrated dedication to his ultimate “clients”: the US taxpayers who were (and are) being bled dry in the bank-bailout process. Had he caved in the face of those tactics, he would have had to forfeit his legal, ethical and moral compass, which he apparently was (to his great credit) unable to do.

  4. Foppe

    OK, so you want awareness on the progressive side (I can’t bring myself to call this the ‘left’, sorry). Let’s assume that this is feasible. Then what should happen on the other side? Does it consist of people who are simply doomed? Simpletons? Too emotional to be able to get past the surface level to realize that they’re being played?
    Because I am having trouble convincing myself either that that is accurate, or that this is particularly productive. Let me therefore simply suggest that ‘they’ have less trouble with ‘grubby’ motivations such as the profit motive, causing them to be less bothered by the fact that Romney made (large parts of) his fortune by being willing to destroy companies in order to make a buck. How might ‘they’ be convinced that something should be done about the way the system works, and that the system can work better? What kind of narrative would repulse people of both persuasions equally?

  5. steelhead23

    Thanks for the PR on Barofsky’s book. But thanks a whole lot more for speaking truth to power. If it wasn’t for the astounding vitriol among those who view Obama as a Kenyan commie I would assume the imagery was intended to placate those well to Obama’s left, that he’s about as left as we could get. Balderdash.

    Yves, some, including myself, have suggested sovereign banking and coinage as a major reform, suggesting that wholescale system change is preferable to the use of the police powers of the state to regulate banking into good behavior. I tend to believe that with the level of money in politics U.S. democracy is currently saddled with, aggressive and effective regulation to force finance to act in the public interest is hopeless, if not laughable. You have generally been a “regulate finance like a utility” fan. Could you please explain why you think that regulation would be better than the socialist solution I espouse? If you have 15 minutes to spare, I would encourage you to watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHgzOEuCsd8

    I must admit to a bit of discomfort, seeing ideas I strongly support being championed by Libertarians, but ignored by populists.

    1. Fraudclosure

      The libertarian ideology (that apparently gives you gas, even though the ideas are completely compatible with your metal based skull) are generally in place right now. Where we are today is the result of deregulated, Gubbmint approved free reign: “Banking in an age of greed is fraught with usury, fraud, and gaming the system for private ends”

      1. steelhead23

        I think you have misconstrued my position. In brief: form a government-owned national bank. Use it to issue dollars to cover the national debt. Pay it off – or issue new bonds as monetary needs warrant, to be held by the bank. All interest collected on those bonds by the National Bank accrues to the federal gov’t. And enforce strong reserve requirements on for-profit banks. Watch that vid. Given the scale of the national debt, this cash for debt approach would have to be phased-in so as to limit inflation and numerous other nuances would likely be necessary, but the basic idea is to dismantle the privately-held Federal Reserve System, replace it with a publicly owned bank and give both fiscal and monetary policy to the Congress and the Administrators controlling the National Bank. This is not anti-regulatory – it simply would make regulation less necessary. Basically, it would take the profit out of banking so it could assume a utility function – a publicly owned utility.

        I tend to believe that this approach would reduce two problems simultaneously: it would chasten banking and reduce the corrupting influence of big finance on government. I consider this concept to be socialistic, not Libertarian, which traditionally wants to let banks fail or sail as they may, sans government interference – but Bill Still, a Libertarian candidate for prez, supports it – which as I said, makes me a tad uncomfortable.

        1. F. Beard

          2 – 1 leverage is too high for me. Why allow ANY credit creation? Between generous government spending on infrastructure and a Negative Income Tax and the allowance of genuine private currencies for private debts, why would there be any shortage of money?

          And while we’re at it, why should any private debt remain on average? Wasn’t the population driven into debt?

      2. Tim

        Wrong.

        Where we are today is a result of the things discussed in this article: Fraud (i.e. breaking existing regulations) and kleptocracy (i.e. forced uninforcement of regulations and active support of banks at taxpayer cost).

        More regulation will not achieve anything without fixing those two issues FIRST.

  6. Dan Kervick

    Imagine we had a system in America in which people worked in police departments for two or three year hitches, and then went to work for the local mob as leg breakers, couriers and bag men – making 10,20 or 50 times more than they made as cops.

    And imagine if after doing this for a few years, they were then hired back as cops! And nobody in charge felt there was anything terribly wrong with this system.

    Crazy, obviously. But this is the system we have in America for watching over financial and corporate crime. Instead of cops on the beat, we have crooked cops on the take and cops on the make.

    It’s not enough to reform this system with rules requiring a “decent interval” between the police work career stage and the mob work stage. We need to have a class of regulators who never make a whole career out of busting bad guys, and never go to work for the industry they are regulating. We need a strict adversarial system based on a permanent wall of separation between the regulators and the regulated.

    1. Ms G

      Yes, Yes and Yes.

      Step 1 though is to pull the pin from asset inflation (real estate, health care, education), which is a big driver in allowing at least one large segment of professionals to rationalize indefensible line-crossings (e.g., US Attorneys to Defense Firms, Investment Bankers to Regulators and Treasury, Congressmen to Companies they once regulated, etc. etc. etc.)

      If you don’t have to be a multi-millionaire to lead a decent middle-class life anymore, some of these otherwise weak/spineless characters might find it less easy to abandon their integrity by crossing lines.

      Step 1(a) is, as you suggest, banning the cross-over highways from “one side of the aisle” to the other (always in search of increased profit/power).

    2. Dan Kervick

      Wrote:

      We need to have a class of regulators who never make a whole career out of busting bad guys, and never go to work for the industry they are regulating.

      But meant to say:

      We need to have a class of regulators who make a whole career out of busting bad guys, and never go to work for the industry they are regulating.

    3. Pat

      “We need to have a class of regulators who make a whole career out of busting bad guys, and never go to work for the industry they are regulating.”

      I don’t think you understand the situation. There is probably not much crossover between SEC lawyers and private industry (the big banks), mostly because there is no use for anyone who has worked at the SEC (because prosecutions are few and far between). Also, SEC lawyers are second-rate time-servers who like the security of a government job.

      The problem is that real prosecutions are HELD BACK and STOPPED by someone at the top, like Eric Holder, who takes orders from Obama. The SEC/FBI/DOJ is certainly capable of prosecutions — look at the S&L convictions in the 90s, and Enron, Adelphi in the early 2000s. Enron was a pretty good prosecution, with about 40 people assigned to the case. Since then, however, there has been virtually nothing, probably because Bush & Co. told the SEC/DOJ to stop.

      So, how do they stop prosecutions? Either someone at the top orders, tells, or suggests that nothing be done. Or roadblocks are set up, such as not assigning enough manpower or money to do the job, or emphasizing convictions, which means that the SEC only pursues easy cases against bottom-feeders.

      1. Ms G

        I am unaware of any formal study of the crossover from SEC to private banks or private lawfirms that represent banks, but anecdotally I am aware of many instances. One of which we are all well aware is David Becker. He went from serving as SEC’s General Counsel to Cleary Gottlieb. Here are the circumstances of his soft-landing.

        David Becker, Esq., while General Counsel at the SEC during the post-arrest investigation of Madoff failed to disclose his family ties to litigants who were fighting Irving Picard’s efforts to claw back phony “profits.” Becker was directly involved in crafting the SEC’s own position and vigorously opposed the “clawback model.” NYT story here — http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/21/business/sec-refers-ex-counsels-actions-on-madoff-to-justice-dept.html?pagewanted=all

        After an uneventful and predictably milquetoast “investigation” into this blatant case of conflict and self-dealing, Becker sashayed right into a partnership post at one of the biggest “white shoe” firms in Manhattan that specializes in reprenting banks and and non-bank financial institutions, Cleary Gottlieb. Link here — http://www.cgsh.com/dbecker/

        SEC attorneys at a lower level than GC (line attorneys) frequently end up in Banks’ legal departments and/or their compliance groups (which oversee compliance with, mostly, financial laws and regulations.)

        1. Doug Terpstra

          Thanks, Ms G, for naming and shaming David Becker, Esquire. He should now be raked over the coals on his way to the guillotine. How can such endlessly recurring robbery and violence not be called out by anyone on the inside? Well, maybe Barofsky at last!

          Common decency is has entirely departed the imperial elite. The dishonesty and self-dealing at the direct expense of so many good people is intolerable and exasperating. The entire political and economic climate, including its foundation of eternal war, torture, assassinations without trial, garrison-state paranoia, and prison profiteering has a ghastly air of unreality to it, like madness or demon-possession. It’s as if all of the players, including the indifferent and apathetic, are not really human beings at all, but some variant of David Icke’s reptilian shape-shifters. So the collective psyche of Wall Street and Washington has morphed into a hybrid hive from a Steven King and George Orwell novel.

          And thanks, Matt, for another great post. I imagine the comedians who finally do see Obama, the ugly naked emperor, unmasked and shorn of his sheep’s clothing are having a very difficult time finding any humor in it. The stark contrast between campaigner/salesman and criminal despot is quite horrifying.

    1. bluntobj

      Any comedian doing an impersonation of Obama would be tarred as a racist immediately. Any Caucasian-origined impersonator would have to use makeup, and the resulting firestorm might melt rock. Any African-American comedian doing an impersonation would be threatened, cast as an Uncle Tom, or would never make fun of an African American president in the first place.

      Besides, mockery is more effective against conservative types that have an identifiable position.

  7. Foppe

    But then how will they learn how the mob thinks?

    In any case, I think it was Epicurean Dealmaker who 1-2 years ago put up a post about regulatory remuneration in Singapore being at ‘industry standard’ levels, and him suggesting that this might be a way to get good people on the enforcement side. Now, I have no clue whether or not he was accurate in his suggestion that cognitive capture and nepotism aren’t issues in Singapore (tbh, I doubt it very much), but I suppose it’s worth trying.. (If only because it would encourage the government to keep industry pay levels low, as doing so would depress costs. Alternatively, you could simply force the industry being regulated to bear the costs, but I’m not crazy about that idea.)

      1. foppe

        It may be that I’ve read it here as well (though I didn’t read NC yet back in 2008), but I’m fairly sure I also read it there (because I remember the poster being extremely certain that it would work, as well as sure of himself, in an ever so slightly misplaced-ly — given reality — confident fashion). I cannot, however, find the post.
        Only thing I can find is a reference to it by Steve Waldman, who seems to have read the post as well, and who seems to be expressing his surprise about not being able to find it again here.

  8. SubjectivObject

    We need a commedian in the spirit and content of Deek Jackson.

    ” About the fraudclosure settlement, President Obama didn’t have this to say …”

  9. jayackroyd

    I’ve been thinking that Colbert’s SuperPAC could help create a third narrative, in opposition to the, [sadly, social security has to go] narrative

  10. Jill

    I thought it was interesting that your brought up the importance of comedy. There is a quote that goes something like this: “Before laughter, even the Bishops quake”.

    Jon Stewart gave one of the most thoughtful, astute interviews ever about Bush to Bill Moyers. Where’s that guy under Obama. Steven Colbert used to be dead on, unmercifully mocking the past administration. All of a sudden they both became Obama suck ups. They have largely held their ridicule as Obushma engaged in actions far worse than anything Bushcheney ever did. Andy Borowitz will occasionally make jokes about Obama, but he does so rarely and they are tepid.

    The best place to see really great comedy about Obama’s “Hope” poster is Black Agenda Report. They have him down and they’ve made variants on that poster which are hilarious. They are righteous!!!

    More Mocking!!! (Will get these books!)

    1. Ms G

      I tuned out Daily Show and Colbert for precisely this reason. They really aren’t “fair + balanced” and shorted all of us because of the deep well of talent (not to mention explosure) they could aim at The Great Deceiver. Satire is largely based on the discrepancy between words and deeds, principles and actions, bla bla, so Obama’s deceiver record is very rich territory and so easy to mine. In a very real sense they are aiding and abetting the Great Deception and failing in their role of revealers of truth through comedy and satire. Shame on both of them. But I am sure that their big paychecks are safe.

      1. RupanIII

        I, too, stopped watching them long ago. If memory serves, I was done with the Daily Show after Stewart/Leibowitz spent half an episode mocking Bush, the next half mocking Nader and third party supporters as ‘crackpots,’ and then during the credit roll they had John Kerry snowboarding. Make people feel all self-righteous about Bush being a monkey, Nader a crackpot, etc. etc., then close with those radical snowboarding democrats! Very subtle!

        1. Ms G

          Brings back unpleasant memories of the Kerry run. Yes, snowboarding and then also kitesurfing off of Nantucket. What a guy. I remember thinking “what a helpful campaign image.”

          It was around that time that a light went off about the Democratic Party — being a useless self-perpetuating machine. Kerry was the best they could come up with? And having Kerry in the race, and so much to work with, they delivered drivel . . . and a proud snow-kite boarder.

          That was years before more of the pieces started falling into place, e.g., DNC and GOP = 2 sides of the same Oligarch coin.

          1. curlydan

            Yeah, the Kerry campaign was a mess. The campaign only made inroads on W on foreign policy and Iraq (“they didn’t attack us”), but Bob Shrum and company were writing all the campaign speeches and couldn’t get off the tired labor themes that the right could too easily parry.

            I spent a lot of time and money on that campaign…maybe the last $ I spent on a Dem pres candidate.

      2. scraping_by

        “But I am sure that their big paychecks are safe.”

        Yes, that is an entertainment industry thing. I remember lots of episodes of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous concerned with people who appeared on camera. And the people who employed them.

    2. Brendan

      Jill, I strongly disagree that Colbert has limited his criticism of Obama. In fact, his criticism of Obama has been the most caustic, biting satire of Obama you will find. Stewart is another story. I urge you to resume watching Colbert. I think you will be pleasantly suprised.

      1. Jill

        Brendan,

        Do you mean things like inviting Michelle Obama on to talk about her work with military families? Perhaps if we weren’t in a constant state of invading one country after another there wouldn’t be so many families in need? Just a thought.

        Or, do you mean when Colbert laments Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage? That endorsement was completely cynical, yet Colbert is clearly touting it to help Obama get reelected.

        No, both Colbert and Stewart are well paid lackeys. They reach a very important demographic of Obama voters; ones who believe they are sophisticated and informed. They are made uninformed by watching these shows, but boy are they cool!!! Being “cool” is a very powerful “place” in our society. It is easy to manipulate people if you make them feel cool.

  11. sunny129

    ‘….the strength of Obama’s narrative will erode.’

    the result?

    Mitt Romney???

    Between them, I would vote for the ‘devil’ I know(?!)

    I am praying for win and control of atleast (one or all of) Congress and the WH by the other.

    1. Aquifer

      Why vote for the devil at all? That’s why we keep getting him – too many folks think like you ….

      It’s a pity you can’t see your way to raising your standards …

    2. JurisV

      “The More Effective Evil”

      That’s the term that Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report (IIRC) used to attack the “vote for the lesser evil” or “the devil you know” meme. Obama has gracefully inflicted more damage on this country than Bush-Cheney ever dreamed of — precisely because he is a MORE EFFECTIVE EVIL. Thanks to Yves for bringing this up in a previous post and pointing us to Glen Ford.

      I can’t believe how hard it was for me to accept the truth of “more effective evil”. It’s depressing, and real — but we have to deal with it.

  12. KYrocky

    I was one of 41% of Democrats in my state that voted “uncommitted” in this week’s primary. It felt good to me as it is the only formal action of protest against Obama’s many failures to uphold the laws of this country that could register any kind of meaningful blip. Obviously many others feel the same for their own reasons. I hope anyone with an opportunity to do so in the few remaining primaries does likewise.

  13. ambrit

    I don’t know if Rock is the right choice. Taking into account some of the comments I’m hearing from my African American aquaintences, Steppin Fetchitt would be a better choice.

  14. scraping_by

    “American comics play the role of the jester, and are sometimes the only ones who can speak truth to power.”

    Oddly enough, this is an observation Hedrick Smith made about the Soviet oligarchy in his book The Russians. That the academics and journalists risked going to the Gulag for saying what comics said on stage every day.

    Things that make you say “hmmmm”.

  15. Brendan

    Yves, watch Colbert. He goes after Obama in this third narrative. That is what seperates him from Stewart. Stewart is stuck in the duopoly prism.

  16. Up the Ante

    I look forward to Barofsky’s details on the Henry Paulson/Kashkari arrangement.

  17. LAS

    “Romney and Obama are simply talking to economic elites who will pay them off – occasionally this becomes obvious…”

    To me, it is always obvious. There are so many problems among the population which are never addressed. Instead all the talk is over what’s important to the rich and powerful.

    Romney says he does not care about the poor. Obama pays them no heed either for the most part. Do they understand how fearful middleclass voters are of becoming poor due to forces beyond their control? Do they know that, on average, upper middleclass families not in the 1% have lost 20%-30% of their household income since the 2008 recession? There is zip in their rhetoric acknowledging what has happened in the USA at the grass roots level.

  18. Norman

    A little late to the game, but one might google the movie Putney Swope writen by Robert Downey Sr in 1969. The third narrtive?

  19. Schofield

    As Thomas Palley’s new book “From Financial Crisis to Stagnation” makes clear it is a matter of finding the politicians who will champion a demand-side economic model to replace the flawed supply-side economic model responsible for the Great Stagnation. To achieve this they must capture government to purge Neo-Liberals from control of capital and political power.

  20. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©

    There are two broad narratives about Barack Obama from American elites.

    There’s not much audience left for an honest comic to aim at, after you eliminate these two groups.

    The truth is, we’re fucked, and people don’t want to hear that.
    ~

  21. C

    I have said it before and I say it again. Vote third party. Any third party for all offices.

    The political corruption that the D’s and R’s practice depends upon the stranglehold hey have on American politics and the fact that, when push comes to shove, most people will vote for one party out of fear of the other.

    By the same token the power of Obama to sweep the mortgage fraud under the rug and the R’s to go along with it rests on the fact that members of Congress, State Governors, State legislators and State AGs all belong to their parties and can be made to toe the line.

  22. LucyLulu

    Matt,
    Sounds like it should be an interesting book. Thanks for the recommendation!

  23. tdraicer

    Liberals (comics included) who know better won’t speak out because Obama is our first black President. If Obama was white there would be serious opposition from inside the Democratic Party (and from Colbert and the Daily Show).

    Of course, if he was white, we never would have heard of him. Obama is decades of Identity Politics on the left biting us all on the ass.

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