Taibbi Assaults “Criticizing Wall Street = Populism” Meme

One of the things that has been driving me crazy about MSM coverage of the latest public demands for tougher reforms of Wall Street is that they typically engage in subtle or not-so-subtle demonization of the critics. It is a blatant effort to put the shoe on the wrong foot. No, it isn’t that the financiers managed to drive their own firms over the cliff and take the global economy with it, yet come out even more profitable than before by skillfully looting the public purse. Heavens no, can’t look at the facts at hand. No, the fact that a normally complacent public has woken up to the fact that its was had is turned on its head. How often have you read that the reason for renewed reforms headfakes is that the public is “angry”? Obviously, by implication, anyone who is emotional must not have sound judgment. so the anger by implication is not warranted or at best overdone.

The more sophisticated version of this meme is to brand calls for reform as populist, again implying that it is great unwashed (and thus of course uninformed) masses that want reform, that if they really understood how things worked, they’d be delighted with this Best of All Possible Worlds that we inhabit.

Matt Taibbi continues his salvos against recent David Brooks New York Times op-ed columns (hat tip Marshall Auerback), and does his usual brutally effective job of shredding this sort of argument. The entire post is very much worth reading, and I particularly liked this part. Taibbi starts with an excerpt from the current Brooks piece:

Politics, some believe, is the organization of hatreds. The people who try to divide society on the basis of ethnicity we call racists…The people who try to divide it on the basis of social class we call either populists or elitists…

Both attitudes will always be with us, but these days populism is in vogue. The Republicans have their populists…Since the defeat in Massachusetts, many Democrats have apparently decided that their party has to mimic the rhetoric of John Edwards’s presidential campaign. They’ve taken to dividing the country into two supposedly separate groups — real Americans who live on Main Street and the insidious interests of Wall Street.

Now, there’s bullshit all up and down this lede. The first lie he tells involves describing everyone who is a critic of Wall Street as a populist. It’s sort of a syllogism he’s getting into here:

All people who criticize Wall Street are populists.

All populists think of themselves as enlightened and pure, and are primarily interested in dividing society, the same way racists do.

Therefore, all people who criticize Wall Street are primarily interested in dividing society, just like racists.

This is obnoxious on so many levels it’s almost difficult to know where to start. As for the populism label, let me quote the Alison Porchnik character from Annie Hall (Woody’s first wife, in the movie): “I love being reduced to a cultural stereotype.”

Brooks here is trying to say that by criticizing, say, Goldman Sachs for mass thievery — criticizing a bank for selling billions of dollars worth of worthless subprime mortgage-backed securities mismarked as investment grade deals, for getting the taxpayer to pay them 100 cents on the dollar for their billions in crap investments with AIG, for forcing hundreds of millions of people to pay inflated gas and food prices when they manipulated the commodities market and helped push oil to a preposterous $149 a barrel, and for paying massive bonuses after receiving billions upon billions in public support even beyond the TARP — that in criticizing the bank for doing these things, people like me are primarily interested in being divisive and “organizing hatreds.”

Taibbi is right. This is a perverse effort to demonize the victims of the biggest theft from the public in history for having woken up, realizing what was done to them, and being less than happy about it. Focusing on the completely justified reaction conveniently takes the spotlight off the fact that this was looting and predation, pure and simple. And it isn’t just little guys who are unhappy, either. Most of the hedge fund managers I know are every bit as upset about the subsidies to Wall Street as the man in the street.

This comes back to one of my pet issues. Controlling the use of terms, sadly, is often key to framing these debates. We all need to watch this Orwellian creep and shift the focus back to where it belong, to the perpetrators of this chicanery and the mechanisms by which they fleeced their customers and ultimately, taxpayers.

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  1. Suffern Ace

    God, the 2nd paragraph of Brooks article you quote makes me want to gag. The “Wall Street/Main Street” division was bellowed out by politicians and media elite in 2008 when they were trying to sell us on bailing out the banks and is now used by Brooks to disparage OUR simple world view.

    Brooks. For crying out loud. That is YOUR simple world view. The line that YOU draw between US and YOU such that YOU think you think you are always BETTER than US, and then wonder why we don’t respect that line. Because it doesn’t exist and because you are not.

  2. S

    The NYT editorial page is for idiots. Maybe MT can take on the other meme that somehow force feeding more credit into a bloated consumption engine fixes something. I must have missed the past decade but we have been in a low interest rate environemnt for a decade and hace created approx. 0 jobs. Brooks, Friedman, Down, etc – Good idea Carlos, charge for their “content”

  3. Tao Jonesing

    Is it “controlling the use of terms,” or is it “controlling the meaning of terms”? It’s almost as if Brooks has redefined “populism” to mean any criticism of the establishment, much as Newsweek last year redefined “socialism” to include the bailouts of Wall Street and AIG (sorry, but those bailouts don’t bear any resemblance to socialism).

    The ability of people like Brooks, Obama and others to engage in Orwellian rhetoric is already fading. They can’t stop the truth, they can only hope to contain it. The question is what will happen when the truth is finally out? I’m worried that the result will be a lot more ham-handed than it needs to be, that a lot of innocent people are going to get hurt and a lot of criminals will be able to slink away unseen. Brooks’ dog-whistle evangelizing to authoritarian “conservatives” is going to focus as much, if not more, rage on victim-critics as it does on the criminals.

    1. Sid

      “If you really want to build justice, you must insist on exact definitions of words.” (rectification of names)


  4. Skippy

    Ahh…it seems some idealogical fence mending is in the works or worse yet a new one is too be built, must be part of the new mental stimulus package.

    Skippy…I’ve just had an epiphany…rebulican party – democratic party = zero sum game…sigh.

  5. bob

    Brooks should just come out and say what he means. Call a spade a spade.

    People who don’t work on Wall st. don’t understand how hard it is to steal that much money, it really is impressive how well they did it this time. Stealing money is their job and they do it very well, they have done so for years. Yes, this time they went a little too far, but no one ever cared in the past.

    The populists are just jealous that they didn’t get their cut this time. Better luck next time.


  6. Tim Geithner's Mom

    “This comes back to one of my pet issues. Controlling the use of terms, sadly, is often key to framing these debates.”

    Luckily, the term “bailout” has stuck…there was a time when the mainstream media et al were actively trying to stamp out that very term…to no avail.

  7. EmilianoZ

    Do you understand now why there was such a thing as the French Revolution? Or do you need a few hundred more years of this shit?

  8. john c. halasz

    “No, the fact that a normally disinterested public has woken up to the fact that they were had is turned on its head.”

    Yves, small semantic quibble, but you shouldn’t use “disinterested” to mean “uninterested”. Even if the old idea of pure disinterestedness is no longer philosophically recuperable, I still think it pays to mark the difference between the two.

    1. craazyman

      when you’re getting 0% interest rate on your lifelong savings so some Shadow Banking System jerkoff can get bailed out with your money while they make a $2 million dollar bonus — yes, sir, you have most certainly been dis-“interested”.

      And a lot of other things that begin with “dis” as well as “un”. And none of them are nice. :)

  9. Haircut100

    Echoes Thomas Baxter’s believe that the “average American household” would have any interest in or need to know CUSIP tranche numbers. Ha ha, they probably even pronounce it to rhyme with “ranch” and not “launch.”

    Look at the Massachusetts special election. The media discourse and political rhetoric has been all about claiming to be able to discern “the message” sent by voters. Then the spinmeisters have the audacity to package the “consensus” message in soundbyte form and feed it back to the voters as their intent. I think there’s a fair amount of “populist anger” at being “handled” as well. ;-)

  10. Eagle

    Maybe Brooks has just been reading some of the comments on this blog. i on the ball should be flattered.

  11. psh

    What they call populism is all about rectifying power imbalances. The classic E.E. Schattschneider way of doing that is by expanding the arena of conflict. When the power imbalance is sufficiently extreme the conflict arena has to expand to include the entire population. That hasn’t happened yet. When we do get to that point – and we will – the result will change things more than 9/11 ever could.

  12. K Ackermann

    David Brooks has always been a giant ass. Him and Krauthammer – why on earth do they have voices? Is there some quota of wrongness that has to be filled?

    The two of them are concentrated wrongness.

  13. joe costello

    If you want to understand who the real Populists were–one of the great mass small “d” democratic movements of American history–try Lawrence Goodwyn’s The Populist Moment. The introduction is here http://www.ratical.com/corporations/PMSHAGAintro.html and I couldn’t more highly recommend it as a short introduction on the Populists and just an invaluable understanding of creating a democratic movement.

    The Populists were the yeoman farmers of the old republic. They were not Luddites, they were trying to figure out how to make the new technologies, such as the railroads, work for them. For twenty years they had a discussion about money, not just who controlled it, but what it was. By the time of the fool Bryan, populism was already a spent force, and while they lost the money debate, many of the reforms to the American system for the next fifty years were birthed by the movement.

    1. Suffern Ace


      The government has mechanisms in place to close down small and regional banks with poor lending practices and has had those since the 1930s. Unfortunately, it would appear that no mechanism existed for large investment banks and “diversified” banks who suddenly find themselves insolvent. Since these large investment banks and “diversified” banks found themselves insolvent all at the same time, it would appear that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. That would be called “reform”, since while the policies developed creatively in 2008 worked somewhat (The banks are still insolvent, they are just allowed to pretend that they aren’t), we would rather not have to commit to those policies.

      Now, the system seemed to work fine if one bank or two were to fail…like Bear Stearns or Countrywide. But when they all failed at once and required the public to support them, is it not prudent to ask the banks, “why is it that you failed?” “If the failure of one of you destroys the lot of you, and that means we don’t have a functioning financial system for a year or so, might we ask how shall we prevent you from failing, or doing something so that you don’t all fail together like that?”

    2. DownSouth

      joe costello,

      Really great stuff. Thanks for the link.

      I especially liked the conclusion:

      Capitalist “modernization theory” and Marxist “democratic centralism,” together with supporting linguistic accoutrements, have left mankind in our time with few conceptual options through which to assert believable political aspirations to the mass of the world’s peoples. In both traditions, one “believes” or one does not, but in terms of sanctioned categories of political language, the option for the unconvinced is an option of one. So be it. The Populists did not know that the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, and the ascendancy of the multinational corporation were to be the coercive and competitive products of the industrial age. Spared the ideological apologetics and narrowness of a later time, Populists thought of man as being both competitive and cooperative. They tilted strongly toward the latter, but they also confronted the enduring qualities of the former. They accepted this complexity about mankind, and they tried to conceive of a society that would be generous — and would also house this complexity. With all of their shortcomings, including theoretical shortcomings, the Populists speak to the anxieties of the twentieth century with their own unique brand of rustic relevance.

      Out of their cooperative struggle came a new democratic community. It engendered within millions of people what Martin Luther King would later call a “sense of somebodiness.” This “sense” was a new way of thinking about oneself and about democracy. Thus armed, the Populists attempted to insulate themselves against being intimidated by the enormous political, economic, and social pressures that accompanied the emergence of corporate America. To describe that attempt is to describe their movement.

      There’s been a tremendous amount of research, especially in the last 10 or 15 years, indicating just how detached classical economic theory is from any factual reality. It’s amazing how the populists came a lot closer to what scientist are now finding to be factual reality than what classical economists do. When classical economic theory does finally implode it will be an event that will be as earth-shattering as when mankind finally admitted that the Earth wasn’t created 5,000 years ago, or that the Earth is not the center of the universe.

  14. Stephen

    I feel that these “Wall Street Reforms” are somewhat of a misnomer since the root cause of this economic crisis was poor lending, plain and simple. Sure the investment banks took part in this, but everyone from the small regional bank to the multinational banks did as well.

    As far as the historical references, I do not believe the French Revolution can be compared any way to the current situation…maybe to the crisis of 1837 & 1839…

    1. K Ackermann

      Brook is not simply parotting what people tell him. He interjects more opinion than someone who is so wrong, so often, has a right to.

      Let me say this: anyone who bought into attacking Iraq should not have a public voice. They are either too stupid, or have some very misguided beliefs, and have no problem with the fallout.

      1. aet


        Every public figure who supported that war ought never be consulted for advice by the public ever again.

  15. spectator

    All this Brooks bashing is misdirected. He reflects the establishment view, the view of every economist and financial authority of any stature. That the bailout was necessary, it avoided the great depression, etc.

    A prime example is Warren Buffet. Unfortunately most people, including Brooks, have not realized how far Buffet has fallen. Someday it will be clear Buffet, and other leaders we believed in, sold their souls to save their hides. He may be reviled much like Greenspan.

    The focus should be on discrediting the thought leaders, as people like Brooks simply believe what they’re told on economics and financial matters.

  16. Independent Accountant

    I read the Brooks piece. Big deal. If Brooks wants to call me a populist, an ignoramus, a luddite or racist, I don’t care. He won’t change my mind. Brooks ad hominem attacks don’t scare me. I say, “Kill the Fed. Indict Lloyd Antoinette Blankfein for securities fraud”.
    Disagreeing with Stephen, I have long felt the US is in a pre-revolutionary state like 1780s France. One sign of an impending revolution is the actual or expected bankruptcy of the government. What’s going on with Uncle Sam’s possible “nationalization” of all retirement plans? When wil China pull the plug on the dollar?
    We even have “clothes horse” Michelle Obama acting like Marie Antoinette. Think about it. How many White House parties did the Obamas throw in “His” first year in office? I’ve seen the number 170 thrown about. “Let them eat cake” Michelle said. Literally. I will be surprised if the Fed exists in 2020.

  17. Jesse

    I wish I had written this.

    “…the notion that there is an lower class and an upper class and that the one should go easy on the other because the best hope for collective prosperity is the rich creating wealth for all. This is the same Randian bullshit that we’ve been hearing from people like Brooks for ages and its entire premise is really revolting and insulting — this idea that the way society works is that the productive ” rich” feed the needy “poor,” and that any attempt by the latter to punish the former for “excesses” might inspire Atlas to Shrug his way out of town and leave the helpless poor on their own to starve.”

  18. M. Ritz

    Thanks Yves. You point the finger at one of the most insidious processes happening in the MSM, in order to obfuscate the central facts of this crisis.
    Bush and his administration were masters at it, and Obama seems to have fine tuned the process: The aim is to change the language, so the narrative as it unfolds in reality can be hidden. As demonstrated in Taibbis analysis of David Brooks article, very subtle psychological cues are at work here. Almost subconsciously our thoughts are influenced by key words, like populist, to get our attention away from what is really happening. The critical minds should point to this surreptitious process as much as possible, so it can be identified whenever it takes place (which is – every time the MSM write something on the crisis on the front pages! And – just to be sure, there i s class warfare going on in the US, and has been for a long time! How else should the widening gap between the incomes of the middle class and the elites be explained. And – by the way – if this had happended on that scale in peaceful Switzerland, we all would have taken to the streets ‘en masse’!

  19. Steve

    When Wall Street is justifiably attacked I’ve never considered it populism – in fact people of all classes condemn Wall Street cases of insider-trading, fraud, and conflicts of interest, etc.

    In this case, however, we have a number of parties “at the scene of the crime” and it is populist to focus on the richest party in the room when the case is the weakest against them. Mortgage brokers deceived, knowingly induced others to deceive and created (criminal) enterprises to profit from it. Homeowners lied (and profited from it). The typical Wall Street participant broke no laws and is guilty at most of naivety and a lack of imagination (that prices could fall).

    The biggest target of the attacks is Goldman Sachs and yet they should be the least liable: They were the least leveraged, they had the least mortgage exposure, they lost the least in the crisis and as a result were the soundest investment bank and never close to failure. If all of the banks had acted like GS, there wouldn’t have been a crisis. With that fact set, it is easy to conclude that the attacks are populist in nature and motivated, at the end of the day, by the fact that GS is making the most money.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I could not disagree with your more.

      I set forth in my forthcoming book ECONNED in considerable detail, about how the financial crisis was the direct result of cynical, predatory behavior at the top of the food chain, which has been carried out in various forms over the last 20 years. The mortgage brokers were foot soldiers responding to demand for paper that came from various trading strategies that I describe in some detail. This was systematic predation and looting.

      It takes nearly half of a 400 page book to make that case, but trust me, I have the goods.

        1. Amit Chokshi

          Who else can you blame but poor people. After all, if it wasn’t for the Community Reinvestment Act passed in 1977 we would never have had this massive subprime meltdown. I have it on good authority (Glenn Beck) that the banks had guns to their heads telling them to loan to poor people no matter what.

      1. Steve


        I’m left to only imagine your counterargument.

        Predatory is an emotional word with little meaning but the only truly repugnant behavior I can think of is bondholders who voted against the best interest of the company because their CDS protection caused them to profit more from the company’s demise.

        But this behavior isn’t even close to the cause of the crisis – it would have happened anyway. Wall Street’s contribution to the problem was primarily too much leverage coupled with massive one-sided bets on real-estate.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          No Steve, you are not close here. And the behavior was predatory, parties quite deliberately setting up deals that were designed to fail, and exploiting the usual investor protections built into those deals to hide their intentions. There were related mechanisms that facilitated looting of major financial firms, that allowed profits to be recorded that turned out to be fictitious. Bonuses were paid on those phony profits, leaving firms undercapitalized on a widespread basis. Those strategies played a direct role in the implosion over 2007-2008.

        2. Yankee Frankee


          I think you should quit while you are behind here — the banks did this, and since when aren’t investment banks predatory? They pride themselves on it. And if they didn’t break any laws it would be because they had those laws rewritten to legalize their predatory behavior. However, they couldn’t rewrite all the laws, and they did break the law. Its called control fraud — the marketing and selling of fraudulent securities. And if you dare respond that they didn’t know the mortgages were fraudulent, you are dumber than you look ;-).

        3. Steve


          Are you arguing that these predatory activities caused the crisis? My guess is that no matter how heinous they were they were irrelevant to the crisis because the leverage ratios and one-sided bets were sufficient to blow up on their own.

          Yankee Frankee,

          You can declare all you want that it was just the banks but the facts aren’t on your side. And the bank behavior that caused this, poor risk management, wasn’t illegal or even immoral just stupid (and not predatory either, whatever that means).

          1. Monday1929

            Steve, the collusion between the banks and the raters will be an easy case to make. It is just aquestion of who makes a deal first with some ambitious prosecuter.
            Other crimes have yet to surface. Do you think some of those bundled mortgages may turn out to be forged, non-existent, or empty lots?

          2. Steve


            No doubt more crimes will surface. But even after all crimes are exposed we will not be able to conclude that the crisis was caused by those crimes (or even by things that should have been crimes). We will also not be able to conclude that most or all bankers committed illegal acts.

            The conclusion will remain that the crisis was caused by high leverage and huge one-sided bets.

    2. liberal

      The typical Wall Street participant broke no laws and is guilty at most of naivety and a lack of imagination (that prices could fall).

      Even granting this (which is questionable), it’s pretty much irrelevant to the moral questions, given that Wall Street essentially writes the laws that govern its behavior.

  20. fresno dan

    “How often have you read that the reason for renewed reforms headfakes is that the public is “angry”?”

    Agree 1,000 per cent. Dare I say it makes me “angry?”
    But it is the under current insinuation that the anger is irrational and uninformed that drives me over the top. The whole buying of the idea that this is akin to a natural disaster, that “no one” could have forseen – despite the gobs and gobs of people who warned about this.
    I read years ago about how the media needs a “narrative” to its stories – even though its on 24/7, it still needs to condense down an event to 2 minutes. Apparently, the condensed version is that the hicks in the boonies are mad at wall street.

  21. Dan Duncan

    A bunch of garbage.

    Taibbi engaged in the EXACT same bullshit with respect to the Tea Party Movement. Hell, just do a search for “Tea Party” or “Teabaggers” on this blog. For the most part they are portrayed simply as gun-toting, idiotic, clueless morons….without regard to the fact that the Movement is about protesting against a wildly inefficient and ineffective government. The blanket statements against Tea Partiers are made by people who fail to notice that the Tea Baggers had much in common with Progressives as to being pissed off at the state of affairs.

    Taibbi just loved the double entendre of “Tea Baggers”, and snickered like Butthead to the Beavis like joke that “they’re all just nuts”. Taibbi as well as most commenters on this blog, simply labeled them as Militia Morons and idiots.

    And now Taibbi is up in arms about the portrayal of Progessives?! Please.

    Since it is bullshit to broadbrush Progessives in this way, take a moment to employ Yves’ logic as well as her language to the Tea Party Movement…to those people who are outraged at a runaway government:

    Taibbi is right. This is a perverse effort against Tea Partiers to demonize them simply for being critics of wasteful government spending, unnecessary government growth and the explosion of the national debt.

    By focusing on the completely justified reaction of the Tea Party Movement…it conveniently takes the spotlight off the fact that this government is looting its citizens, pure and simple. And it isn’t just the rich guys or hard-right Republicans who are unhappy, either. Most of the main street people I know are every bit as upset about the explosion of government growth and pork barrel spending.

    This comes back to one of my pet issues. Controlling the use of terms, sadly, is often key to framing these debates. We all need to watch this Orwellian creep and shift the focus back to where it belong, to a government that spends without restraint and is fleecing a Middle Class that it no longer represents.

    Taibbi is right about the bullshit portrayal of those angry with cronyism.

    But he did the same damn thing in his portrayal of those angry with corrupt government spending.

    1. Amit Chokshi

      Taibbi did it cause he was right in both cases. Teabaggers are not mad about gov’t spending. They are just a phenomenon of Faux News that want to kick Mexicans out, think Obama was born in Kenya, “want their country back” – the same one where they voted for Bush twice, believe in “freedom” except if you are a preg woman, gay, or not christian, want to be “fiscally responsible” after being cool with T+ tax cuts and wars and want to be fiscally responsible when our funding costs are some of the cheapest in the world and we have 10+% unemployment, rather than try to find a compromise want to just secede (TX), want the “gub’ment” to stay out of their Medicare, believe in death panels, think the real money in global warming is in new tech (maybe 10-20B in clean tech funds max worldwide vs cos like XOM that are worth $300+B alone).

      Progressives have done the research and work. Look at the latest Mother Jones mag (Too Big to Jail), there’s REAL research in there, it’s an awesome issue. The teabaggers get their “news” from Glenn Beck scribbling on a chalk board. MJ and other progressive sources break news that’s actionable before anyone else. They actually did a phenomenal piece on GS setting up Cintra and Macquarie to buy the Chicago Skyway and discussed the US selling off highyways well before anyone covered it. Comparing progressives who are focused on real issues with the Faux News brigade that is about pushing death panels, obama is a racist and not born here, anti-immigration, socialist/fascist (!?!?), teaching creationism in schools, it’s laughable.

      It’s just a bunch of angry people that can’t pinpoint exactly why and are wedged by Faux (abortion, immigration) and consistently be cajoled into voting against their best interests. Right now progressives and these people are on the same page about anti-banks but most still don’t “get it” as morons like David Brooks don’t get it nor do the establishment people.

      I haven’t see the tea crowd support the stop prop trading plan but it would make sense. i outline why here http://seekingalpha.com/article/184051-an-obama-plan-that-just-may-make-sense

      Right now, fools like Arthur Levitt, Brooks and other establishment and corp shills are lumping people that protest and “get it” like Yves with the same people carrying Ak-47s around at rallies demanding that Obama show his birth cert or believe in death panels (Palin). I had mentioned this in a previous comment a few months ago.

      My take is nothing is going to happen. This dog and pony show is just for a few pols to look good in front of their constituents by barking at Geithner and Paulson and then they’ll protest about BB for a bit but still vote for him.

      1. liberal

        Well said.

        I’d add that the proof that the Teabaggers are full of $hit is that they didn’t protest when Bush was in power.

        Yes, I gave money to Obama, voted for him in the primary and general, etc, but I never thought he was the Second Coming (thought he was the least of the evils to choose from), and will agree that his admin has been terrible (particularly the Wall St stuff, Geithner, Summers, and the Afgh escalation).

        But he’s still far better than Bush (which just shows how awful Bush was). Where were the Teabaggers then? I guess $1T spent on an illegal invasion of Iraq to seize non-existent WMDs was money well-spent, as far as they’re concerned.

        1. Valissa

          Where were the Tea Partiers under Bush? Where are the anti-war protesters under Obama? Obama is just as much a war monger as Bush ever was, but the most of the so-called Left doesn’t seem inclined to protest the Bush-like policies of Obama. It has been fascinating watching the disgruntled in both parties try to deal with their relative party establishments. There are Progressives who sort-of want to to disengage from the Democratic party but can’t quite walk that far from their mommy, just like there are Tea Partiers that are disgusted with the Republican party but haven’t figured out if they want to leave home and move into their own apartment or not. OH, btw, alot of the tea partiers are not part of either party but are just overwhelmed by the big gov’t actions of both parties and I dislike the snooty elitist criticisms of their simpler worldview.

          I used to think I was part of the Left, but now I have no idea where to place myself on the lobotomizing Lft-Right-Center scale. I’m with Chris Hedges on this:

          “The fiction of democracy remains useful, not only for corporations, but for our bankrupt liberal class. If the fiction is seriously challenged, liberals will be forced to consider actual resistance, which will be neither pleasant nor easy. As long as a democratic facade exists, liberals can engage in an empty moral posturing that requires little sacrifice or commitment. They can be the self-appointed scolds of the Democratic Party, acting as if they are part of the debate and feel vindicated by their cries of protest.”
          Democracy in America Is a Useful Fiction http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/democracy_in_america_is_a_useful_fiction_20100124/

          1. DownSouth


            The thing that keeps nagging me is that exit polls show almost a fourth of those who voted for Brown identified themselves as Democrats.

            Even though the Tea Partiers have rushed in to take credit, I feel the truth is closer to what you indicate in your comment, and that is that there’s something much more nuanced going on here. Maybe it was people who share the disillusionment of bloggers like Yves, who I would hardly classify as being Tea Partiers, that were responsible for the swing votes that led to Brown’s victory.

            I certainly don’t know where the road out of the wilderness lies, but it certainly doesn’t lie with the Democratic or Republican parites. They truly are anti-democracy in action.

            Also, make sure and not miss the Lawrence Goodwyn piece that Joe Costello linked to above. It echoes many of the same themes as the Chris Hedges article you link.

          2. Valissa

            Downsouth, my husband and I were some of those MA voters who voted for Scott Brown and we are NOT Tea Partiers. Called us pissed off from the left. We are independents/unaffiliated (ex-Dems) that have almost always voted for the Dems anyway. I had originally planned to stay home and boycott the election, but then a couple of days before the election I decided the only way to try and stop some of the madness was to vote for Scott Brown on the strategic theory of promoting gridlock in gov’t (hoping that more gridlock would lead to less looting).

            The night Scott Brown won, we opened a precious 18 y.o. bottle of Glenlivet and proceeded to get drunk. I had a hangover for the first time in many years and am still not much up to drinking my typical shot or 2 in the evening. My god, when the day came that I felt I have to vote for Republican to get “change” I realized how truly awful our two party system is. I believe it’s time for some serious memetic guerilla warfare to attempt to change the whole frame of the political conversation.

            Thanks for rec’ing “The Populist Movement” article, just printed it out. I first read about this movement in Wealth and Democracy and have always been curious to know more.

          3. Dan Duncan

            You guys are missing the point:

            What once constituted “The US Middle Class” is nothing but fractured halves of a Left-Middle/Right-Middle Divide.

            The Middle Class…whatever we once were…will continue to be systematically exploited as long as we allow the media and politicians to control the narrative that it’s the “Stupid Teabaggers” or “Hyper-Ventilating Populists”.

            Sure, both sides are angry for reasons that don’t necessarily overlap…but it doesn’t mean either side is necessarily wrong or that the anger needs to be mutually exclusive.

          4. DownSouth

            While Hedges makes many an astute and insightful observation, I’d challenge him on one point. He says that “inverted totalitarianism is not conceptualized as an ideology.”

            I very much disagree.

            While the ruling oligarchy may indeed call its beliefs “science,” “empiricism” or “nature,” and brand everybody else’s beliefs “ideology,” why on Earth would we buy into this rhetorical ploy? For the oligarchs’ actions are informed by ideology, and ideology of the very worst sort, as defined here by Robert Heilbroner:

            Let us begin by taking up the question of ideology at its worst. By “worst,” I do not mean a deliberate and knowing misrepresentation or manipulation of the truth. No doubt some economists lie, as does everyone from time to time, but that is not the problem the term conjures up… It is their failure to apply the same degree of intellectual rigor to their own arguments as they would to those of the opposition that makes their statement an obvious example of “blatant” ideology.
            –Robert L. Heilbroner, Behind the Veil of Economics

            On the flip side, Heilbroner argues that “it is possible to present beliefs, no matter how passionately held, in a manner that weights evidence, considers alternatives, and makes assertions or hypotheses, not dogma.” Which brings us around to what Lawrence Goodwyn said in the link Joe Costello provided above:

            The sequential process of democratic movement-building will be seen to involve four stages: (1) the creation of an autonomous institution where new interpretations can materialize that run counter to those of prevailing authority — a development which, for the sake of simplicity, we may describe as “the movement forming”; (2) the creation of a tactical means to attract masses of people — “the movement recruiting”; (3) the achievement of a heretofore culturally unsanctioned level of social analysis — “the movement educating”; and (4) the creation of an institutional means whereby the new ideas, shared now by the rank and file of the mass movement, can be expressed in an autonomous political way — “the movement politicized.”

            Any successful democratic movement must therefore:

            1) Identify the prevailing ideology and call it out for what it is, and

            2) Create “new interpretations” and “new ideas” that “run counter to those of the prevailing authority,” as Goodwyn says.

            Without these new ideas–which must be philosophically, morally and intellectually appealing–any progressive movement is doomed to failure.

          5. Valissa

            Perhaps Scott Brown will actually stick to his “independent” schtick. He even hired some of Kenedy’s staffers. Check out this article at the Boston Globe, key excerpt:

            Brown says he’ll vote how he wants to vote http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2010/01/brown_declares.html
            US Senator-elect Scott P. Brown said today he would not always be a reliable Republican vote, and would chart a new course in Washington. Brown, in a 30-minute interview with the Globe, said he told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Majority Whip Jon Kyl last week that, “With all due respect, I really don’t know a lot of you people, and you don’t know me. But maybe that’s good, because I’m going to vote how I want to vote.” “They were cool,” Brown said. “They said, ‘OK, you can do whatever you want. You can probably do whatever you want right about now, Scott, so that’s OK.’ They understand. They understand all eyes are on me.” Brown said he has started building his staff, and has hired a few staffers of the late Edward M. Kennedy, including his well-known immigration liaison, Emily Winterson.

          6. DownSouth


            If you have read Wealth & Democracy, then you know what a hatchet job David Brooks does on history, for instance when he writes:

            In fact, this country was built by anti-populists. It was built by people like Alexander Hamilton and Abraham Lincoln who rejected the idea that the national economy is fundamentally divided along class lines. They rejected the zero-sum mentality that is at the heart of populism, the belief that economics is a struggle over finite spoils.

            Kevin Phillips spends considerable time talking about Hamilton, including the first couple of paragraphs of the first chapter of Wealth and Democracy:

            The debate over the compatability of wealth and democracy is as old as the republic. From the start, concern that the egalitarian-seeming United States of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries migh develop welath concentrations to match Europe’s was a worry for many but also the guarded hope of an important few.

            Alexander Hamilton, who favored both a financial class and an aristrocracy, would have cherished the possibility of such an elite.

            What Brooks does goes well beyond ideology, to the “deliberate and knowing misrepresentation or manipulation of the truth” that Heilbroner speaks of.

            How Brooks gets away with butchering history in such a blatant fashion on the pages of the nation’s “newspaper of record” speaks volumes about the moral sewer into which the nation has descended.

          7. Valissa

            Downsouth, David Brooks “gets away with it” because he is the offical NYT neo-con elite Republican shill and propagandist and that’s his job, period. He strikes me as the elite demogagic mirror image of Rush Limbaugh…each appealing to a different segment of the Republican party yet taking their talking points from the think tanks,etc. That anyone takes Brooks seriously always amazes me, although he is occasionally witty and clever in ways I can appreciate. As Glenn Greenwald pointed out recently, all the villagers are so keen to be part of the “Court of Versailles” that they will say whatever they need to to belong.

            In reading Wealth and Democracy, I was amazed to discover that Kevin Phillips was (is?) a moderate Republican (and Nixon supporter who explains that Nixon actually supported health care for all). He writes not as a Republican ideologue, elitist nor a populist but as a clear and fair thinker, of the preferred type you mentioned above.

            As far as “populism” goes I’m still trying to sort out and understand the various components, manifestations, and attitudes that come under that umbrella term, as well as the historical contexts for such. I am beginning to think we need another set of terminology for the various populisms in order to get past the ‘populism is in the eye of the beholder’ (or propagandist) state we are in now.

          8. DownSouth

            And here’s what Kevin Phillips had to say about Lincoln in Wealth and Democracy:

            Abraham Lincoln, the Illinois Rail-Splitter, told his audiences that, “Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.” His great strength in the 1860 election came in the Yankee countryside, towns and small cities among yeoman farmers, storekeepers, artisans, and small manufacturers; whereas the silk-stocking electorates and clubgoers of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia were much more suspicious. To finance the Civil War, Lincoln supported the first U.S. income and inheritance taxes. Contemptuous of wartime gold and currency speculators, in 1863 he had Congress pass a law—entirely ineffective—prohibiting trade in gold futures.

            The rise of industrial capital during the war years seems to have worried Lincoln. In 1864 he cautioned a workingmen’s association against the “effort to place capital on an equal footing wit, if not above labor, in the structure of government” and he warned working people “to beware of surrendering a political power which they already possess, and which if surrendered, will surely be used to close the door of advancement against such as they…”

          9. Valissa

            Downsouth… the meme of labor vs. capitol is itself a type of ideology, and only one way of framing economic realities. It is the old problem of expressing what’s going on in the world around you as a dualism or polarity. That very basic thought structure always ends up encouraging extremism.

            I think we need to come up with different ways of framing economics that reflect the realities of human existence, and break out of the labor-capitol paradigm (please excuse my limited economic knowledge here). When I first started researching I accepted it as one of the established economic paradigms, but I have come the believe that it’s limited and limiting.

            Not sure exactly where to go with this but I’ll give it a shot… here’s another component of economics that goes back to the earliest human settlements… raiding and looting, in the earliest times basically the stealing of resources and women from neighboring tribes.(see Azar Gat’s History of War in Civilization). When I say tribes I mean anything from hunter-gatherer to early farming/husbandry “Chiefly” or “Big Man” societies. This raiding and looting added to the wealth of the tribe/clan, was done by every group, and in some time periods and places was a major component (as it is becoming today) of it’s wealth.

            In other words, looting or stealing someone’s else’s stuff is a historic norm (whether via warfare or other methods) and therefore it should be included in economic models depsite our moral concerns. Does looting/raiding/stealing count as labor or capital? Or do we need to broaden that dualistic paradigm to be more multi-dimensional? It’s not easy to break out of old thinking boxes and I am only just starting and not sure where it will lead yet.

          10. i on the ball patriot

            Valissa said;

            “In other words, looting or stealing someone’s else’s stuff is a historic norm (whether via warfare or other methods) and therefore it should be included in economic models depsite our moral concerns. Does looting/raiding/stealing count as labor or capital? Or do we need to broaden that dualistic paradigm to be more multi-dimensional? It’s not easy to break out of old thinking boxes and I am only just starting and not sure where it will lead yet.”

            Valissa you are hot on the trail … the labor capital meme is an ideology that keeps many in an old box … Marxists are stuck in the similar bourgeoisie vs proletariat concept box … the true root struggle is in individuals, and groups of individuals, it is the struggle of deception vs perception … all organisms are thrust into a dog eat dog world where it is necessary to cannibalize (kill or partially arrest the spirit of) other organisms in order to survive … humans are the dominant species on earth because they excel at the cannibalization process … they excel because of their ability to externalize themselves — to place their motor and cerebral skills external to their bodies … think; speech, papyrus, paper, cave drawings, books, computers, flash memory, etc., on the cerebral side, and think; wheel, shovel cart, wagon, back hoe, airplane, rocket, etc., on the motor skill side … and of course many externalizations combine both motor and cerebral skills … but … all externalizations are tools of dominance … all externalizations are created to get needs met and therefore cannibalize other organisms … all externalizations are therefore deceptions … we all, at every level then, as individuals, are forced to use our deceptive externalizations in order to survive … politics is the process of forming alliances for the use of existing tools of dominance, and the creation of new tools of dominance … language is an externalization … deception always leads perception …

            Given all of the preceding, the best that one can hope for is to regulate the cannibalization process so that it is more humane and more fair. The populist concept or meme that everyone is searching for is Fairism.

            Fairism would require that the present way out of wack extremes of income and asset wealth be distributed more fairly. Get rid of all these fucking ass wipe billionaires and break up all of those twenty thousand acre ranches in Wyoming (they are the product of aggregate generational corruption that has now made the system so unbalanced). Create a simple utility banking system with interest free loans directly to citizens instead of to parasitic bankers that charge outrageously usurious interest and sit on their fat asses and do nothing all day except buy the next sell out politician. Etc. Create a new system with democratic fairness as the guiding principle.

            So … the work to be done is to openly and democratically discuss and set fair asset and earnings limits — what is the maximum and minimum wage and just how much wealth is one person fairly entitled to? And to create new award incentives for creativity and excellence of performance that honor contribution to society as a whole. An integral part of creating the new Fairism would be to discuss ending corporate person hood and putting ordinary citizens on corporate boards. Key to all of this is ignoring the present corrupt system and building the new Fairism outside of the dominant order. This will require massive election boycotts as a ‘vote of no confidence’ in the present government, while simultaneously hammering out the new Fairism.

            So ….. Fairism … once you get your head around it … it is exciting and energizing to think of the possibilities!

            Deception is the strongest political force on the planet

          11. DownSouth

            I haven’t read Azar Gat’s History of War in Civilization, but am definitely intrigued by the subject.

            I have a couple of books sitting here–Peter Turchin’s War and Peace and War and Jonathan Schell’s The Unconquerable World–which are on the reading list.

            Do you recommend Azar’s book? Maybe I’ll pick up a copy of it also.

            I have read this essay by Turchin:

            Warfare and the Evolution of Social Complexity:
            A Multilevel-Selection Approach

            His conclusion:

            Our ability to form huge cooperative societies has a dark side. Large-scale sociality and large-scale warfare are intimately connected; they coevolved as a dynamical complex during the last ten thousands years. This does not mean that the humanity is forever doomed to lethal conflict. Warfare is not in our “genes,” and evolutionary history is not destiny. However, current attempts to find other bases for cooperation at the scale of the whole humanity (such as the United Nations) have, so far, proved inadequate to stop the wars. It is imperative that we have a clear understanding of why war occurs in order to be able to evolve beyond it. Multilevel selection, as I hope this paper shows, provides a fruitful theoretical framework for working towards such an understanding.

          12. Valissa

            The correct title of the Azar Gat book is “War in Human Civilization”… which I can never seem to remember as it’s a terrible title for a truly fabulous book. It’s a wonderful blend of archaeology, anthropology, history, economics, military evolution, and group power dynamics… and his goal in writing it is similar to that Turchin’s quote… HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!

            btw, since I liked your Turchin quote so I went to Amazon and read some reviews of the Turchin book you mentioned. Looks like he’s attempting some sort of scientific approach to the history of civilizations… and that makes me leary of his intellectual approach as I am inherently suspicious of reductionistic attempts to model reality. Is he an interesting writer?

            In probing the nature and roots of war, Gat’s approach is to look for and acknowledge patterns but he does not seem to have an agenda other than seeking an evolutionary understanding of civilization, war and the human condition. The next book on my list is Carroll Quigley’s “The Evolution of Civilization” and though it is almost 50 years old it has been recommended to me as long as I bear in mind that his archaeology and anthropology insights will be dated.

          13. DownSouth

            OK, I ordered Gat’s book as well as Quigley’s.

            The only thing of Turchin’s that I’ve read is the piece I linked.

            He gave a nice lecture for the Science Network:


            Turchin is quite an optimist in that he places great faith in the ability of science to solve our many problems. He really gets into matematical modeling, which I don’t quite know what to think of. We all know how that movie ended with the economists. Some, like David Colander, claim we need better models:

            Others, like the political philosopher Hannah Arendt, are disdainful of the very notion of trying to model something as complex as human behavior.

          14. i on the ball patriot

            DownSouth Turchin quote;

            “This does not mean that the humanity is forever doomed to lethal conflict. Warfare is not in our “genes,” and evolutionary history is not destiny.”

            War occurs because we are cannibals. Cannibalism IS wired into our genes and evolutionary history IS a good indicator of our destiny.

            Our evolutionary history shows that we are rapidly, through externalization, morphing into a new form. We are becoming our externalizations. Our eyes and ears are now on Mars, and traveling the solar system, and sending information back to our aggregate externalized brain while we sleep. The irony is that we create the externalizations to cannibalize others so as to survive and the externalizations in turn cannibalize us as they morph into the newer aggregate externalized form.

            It is interesting to note that while living — in between the joy of birth and the agony of death, where we are forced into a constant cycle of creating cannibalistic deceptions and perceiving the cannibalistic deceptions of others in order to survive — each individual process of deception parrots and contains the joy agony components of the total life cycle. The Ponzi mark feels almost euphoric and joyful when giving over his cash to the con at the beginning of the deception, and then, when perception reveals the deception, the mark is in agony and despair. Rinse and repeat.

            Just as people mask the discomfort of death with religion they also mask the discomfort of cannibalizing others while they are living with the self deception of endless searching for greater meaning. The reality is that you make your own meaning in life.

            David Brooks loves it when all the other cannibals are busy searching for meaning. He knows what gives his life meaning — stealing your lunch.

            Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

        2. JTFaraday

          I get the skepticism about this “tea party movement” but they say they’re not at one with the Republican Party, are currently resisting efforts to corral them into line, and there *were* more than one libertarian runs at the presidency alongside the Obama/McCain show in 2008 and in opposition to the Bush Republicans.

          Frankly, I’ve heard a lot less directly from these people themselves than I have seen projected onto them. I’m skeptical of that as well. I still remember waking up the day after the election in 2004, when the NY Times decided that evangelicals in Alabama were running the country. As if.

          As far as NOT protesting during the Bush era is concerned–are we going to pretend that the only significant alteration in public consciousness since September 2008 is the (so-called) “new” Administration? Really?

          If there’s nothing new to protest, I must be living in some sort of alternative reality myself.

          1. Amit Chokshi

            Wealth & Democracy is good, DownSouth you should have brought up the inside job on the war bonds for the Revolutionary War. Hamilton let the word leak to his rich buddies about plans for the US to redeem the war bonds at par. So the rich folks trotted up and down the coast buying up these bonds from the common citizen for pennies on the dollar only to be hugely rewarded once Hamilton made the announcement. Hmm, full payment at par to a select few by the Treasury secretary…where does that sound familiar…

    2. Anonymous Jones

      The thing is, you can’t control these terms: “wasteful” government spending and “unnecessary” government growth. These are based upon opinion and perspective. Not that I’m proposing this solution, but you will likely have to kill me to stop me from disagreeing with you on what is “wasteful” and what is “unnecessary.”

      Also, I am not for blanket dismissal of anyone based on their membership in a group (voluntary or involuntary). That said, it has been my overwhelming experience in discussing topics with teabaggers that I have come away feeling that their political philosophy is undeveloped and *counter-productive to their very own interests* (yes, pejorative and arrogant conclusions from me, but still, they might just be accurate…just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean someone isn’t chasing me).

      One final note: as you are always so concerned with terms and rhetorical merit, if I were you, I would be wary of using phrases like “government is looting its citizens.” Obviously, the government is not a natural person. It does not actually consume. “Government” is a redistributive mechanism. If you meant “government employees” or “politicians,” you should use those terms. Yes, the government redistributes resources to government employees (who are citizens, of course) and non-employee citizens (like anyone whose house is burning down). The key in any question about the government is who benefits and who loses through this redistributive power it has. Methinks most people would not be up in arms about a redistribution when it benefits them. So I think we have to engage in a debate not just about the size of government (which is of course an appropriate debate) but also about the effect of government redistribution. Of course, I whole-heartedly disagree with you that the size is too large (as do seemingly most citizens in most industrialized countries outside of this one). I do agree that the redistribution is done incredibly poorly here. We’re not going to come to agreement on the former issue, I am sure, but we can at least frame the debate more accurately than you did.

    3. Stumpy

      I think the Teabagging movement is more astroturf than authentically grassroots, and agree wholeheartedly with Taibbi when he attacks the finance industry with engaging skill and verve.

      That said, I think Dan Duncan is correct that Taibbi uses the same rhetorical weapons he discredits whenever it is convenient to him. Taibbi is a skilled propagandist, and his writing is engaging even when he argues positions I think are flawed or outright deceptive. He is very good at his job.

  22. Tim de Illy

    Those who control the language win the argument.

    Politicians always describe the Health Care fiasco this way: “30 to 40 million Americans have no Health Insurance.” Thus they argue that we need to extend Health “Insurance”, not health “Care” to 40 million Americans. This is how we get the disastrous plan from Obama that’s really just a huge subsidy to Big Insurance and Big Pharma

    We don’t need health insurance. We need health care. And not for 40 million uninsured, but for every American. We can do it and it can be cheaper than the mess we have now. Just remove the greedy middlemen who produce nothing of value except huge bonuses for executives and gigantic pools of money for Wall Street to gamble with, and you’ll be shocked at how much cheaper health care for everyone can be.

    So long as we continue to use the term “insurance” in public debate, the people always will lose.

    So, yeah, language matters.

    Tim in Sugar Hill

  23. Richard Kline

    So Yves, glad to hear you working on this one. I know you’ll recall I was riled _very_ early on at the derivse use of ‘populist’ in the MSM. I’ve seen this number done on environmentalists, peace workers, union members, and patriots of other peoples not content with the place dictated for them by the US. The methodologocal hatchetwork is the same.

    “Controlling the use of terms, sadly, is often key to framing these debates.” This is very much a function of the MSM. One could say that it is the ONLY function of the MSM.

  24. crossing the rubeicon

    Bill Buckley was a smart guy. He knew his audience, Birchers, and what kind of guy they’d be comfortable with. If you ever have to go to the uttermost provinces for some reason – who knows, there’s a tort case about a hog-waste spill or you’re asset-stripping the last remaining US factory in the commemorative NASCAR plate industry – and, god forbid, your rental car breaks down, the guy who comes is always David Brooks, a bucktoothed simpleton with three-pound glasses. He can’t replace a fan belt because he bought out Lester Pincus when Lester lost his foot from the sugar diabetis but Lester’s Snap-on tools had some sockets missing because Lester drank, you know? and on and on with all this homespun wisdom until you want to rip the shotgun out of his rack and eat a slug.

  25. onwee

    The fatal flaw of conspiracy theorists is their belief in greater knowledge, control and foresight than actually exists in human beings, much less in human organizations. The narrative that GS et all other gros chats sold crap on purpose so they could bet against it to the point of bringing the world to its knees and then of course ripped off taxpayers (mostly the rich, by the way) through political control is in the same fatally flawed mode. Think of Wall Street as a big, dumb profit-making machine (ironic, perhaps) and Washington as a big, dumb vote buying machine (not so ironic) and you’re much closer to the truth. The big dumbness will continue, so make regulations that allow them to be that dumb and not drag the rest of us down, but really, stop wasting time with the evil empire BS because, lacking intellectual rigor, it becomes emotional blather and thus easy to tune out.

    1. liberal

      Think of Wall Street as a big, dumb profit-making machine…

      If we move away from legal and accounting language and back to the language of classical economics, it’s more appropriate to say that WS is a big, dumb parasitic rent-collecting machine.

      1. liberal

        The big dumbness will continue, so make regulations that allow them to be that dumb and not drag the rest of us down, but really, stop wasting time with the evil empire BS because, lacking intellectual rigor, it becomes emotional blather and thus easy to tune out.

        While the “evil” might be exaggerated and the “stupidity” might be underemphasized, one thing that makes them evil and makes your recommendation hard to carry out is that they do own the Congresscritters who write the statutes, and they do own/influence the regulators who enforce them.

        1. cougar_w

          …. and wanting to own Congress was not stupid but evil. And teh SCOTUS just threw open the door to more, and it will still be evil.

          Full circle.

  26. i on the ball patriot

    Sometimes I don’t think Taibbi is that bright, either that or he is sly like a fox, or, so deeply submerged in the privilege that aggregate generational corruption has provided him (he admits to being rich, the product of a fancy private school, and views, “these people as my cultural peers”) that he can not see the forest for the trees …

    …neocon scum bag Brooks, who has shifted from create the problems mode — he was highly supportive of all of the machinations that went into producing the current crisis — to his current mode, create divisiveness about those problems mode, now works on building the very divisive, ‘demonize the populist meme’ …

    … Taibbi takes the bait, makes some impassioned dialogue about the fallacy of the rich trickling down to the poor, the upper class taking care of the lower class, etc., but then attributes this to ‘crime’ and closes with this specious crap;

    “And besides, the fact that a lot of these guys have made a lot of money recently doesn’t make them “upper class.” They’re the same assholes we all were in high school and college, except that they made some very particular moral choices in adulthood, and became criminals, and have now arranged things so that they’re going to be tough as hell to catch. And when they fall, which a lot of them will… I mean a lot of these guys are ten seconds from losing it all and spending the next ten years working the laundry room at Danbury or pushing shopping carts under the FDR expressway. And they know it. These people aren’t the nobility. They’re people just like us, only stupider and less ashamed of themselves.

    That’s not a class story. It’s a crime story, and it doesn’t have a damn thing to do with China.”

    What bullshit! This is not a simple crime story perpetrated by, “people just like us”, or, “the same assholes we all were in high school and college”. And the complete story has a lot to do with China and it has hundreds of other geopolitical implications.

    This is a story of a small handful of elite neocon psychopathic scum bags (Brooks, Kristol, Wolfowitz, Cheney, Podhoretz, etc. … all disciples of Leo Strauss, an advocate of the elite “Noble Lie” school) who have captured the ears of the global wealthy ruling elite and are responsible for the well orchestrated incremental shift in the global culture over the last forty years from one of hope and opportunity to one of fear and despair. Their goal is a two tier ruler and ruled world with the ruled engaged in perpetual conflict with each other. The expensive and high resource consuming global middle class is currently being replaced with a much less expensive and streamlined law enforcement class. If you thought Henry Kissenger’s attempts at global population control were despicable, hang on, you ain’t seen nothing yet! The intentionally created global financial crisis, and all of its benefits for the wealthy ruling global elite, is an integral part of the plan.

    Just as Hitler, with his elite message of fascism, captured the fancy of financiers, industrialists, and the military in the past, these self professed liar scum bag neocons have captured the present day crop of financiers, industrialists, and the military, with an even more odious plan for global domination.

    Taibbi needs to wake the fuck up and start connecting all the dots.

    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

  27. bobh

    Use of the “angry populist” meme for deflecting and ignoring valid criticism of the banking elites is related to an earlier word game played by the right. At some point in the 70s, Republican politicians and their friends in journalism began dismissing observations that the rich were screwing the poor with the term “class warfare.” It still drives me crazy and makes me wish that someday they will see the real thing.

  28. cougar_w

    Lots of great comments here. You people rock.

    I get the sense that the chatter about “populist” movements is some kind of posthypnotic code phrase for “get your game on, hommies”.

    The conservative MSM is priming the pump in the hinterlands. It’s propaganda yes, but it’s also a broadcast message; the Lefty barbarians are at the gates, all True Americans know what to do.


  29. Eric L. Prentis

    Almost without exception, the MSM media which is controlled by the corporate plutocracy (TV, radio, almost all newspapers, most magazines) is the enemy, believe anything they say at your own peril.

  30. Tax Payer

    We can all hope that Kudlow runs against Schumer, so that those who do not read the NYT or nc will be included in this discussion.

  31. Monday1929

    Yves, another meme is the “there is plenty of blame to go around”, and usually linked to this is, “we must not seek to blame but to the lessons learned as we forge ahead”. I have been fighting Todd Harrison’s attempts to pull this one off at Minyanville. The “plenty of blame” works especially well because plenty of Americans have a less than clean conscience- a fudged mortgage application hangs over them. So many might be swayed by that argument, not realizing that the professional risk evaluators-Banks and Raters have 100 times the blood on their hands.
    Another element rarely mentioned is that the banks writing the sure- to -default probably really did NOT know that house prices can go down, like Jamie Dimon admitted, and assumed they would foreclose and re-sell at a profit.

  32. Hugh

    Bobo “Babbling” Brooks should never be taken seriously by anyone. He is a talking points machine. His shtik is to act like he is a spokesman for some group, like the middle class. He then tells us what the middle class thinks and it always agrees with what David Brooks thinks. To understand a David Brooks’ lament, you need to reverse the terms. Basically, when the Republicans or the rich or the corps did something it was OK, but when anybody else does it then it is a bad idea that will destroy the country.

    Most thinking people go through 3 phases with Brooks: surprise, anger, and finally indifference. He’s just part of the noise machine. He hasn’t had an original or clever thought in his life. But then that isn’t the reason he is being paid as well as he is.

  33. Keith - Hermosa

    Wall Street is the new protected minority, and Bankster will become the new “N-word”.

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