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LQD: Barack Hoover Obama

by NBBooks Mon Jul 6th, 2009 at 03:15:11 PM EST

This month's cover story in Harper's magazine is a must-read for those who recognize that the broad currents of human history repeat themselves. In "Barack Hoover Obama: The best and the brightest blow it again" Kevin Baker writes:

Much like Herbert Hoover, Barack Obama is a man attempting to realize a stirring new vision of his society without cutting himself free from the dogmas of the past-without accepting the inevitable conflict. Like Hoover, he is bound to fail.

. . . . The most appalling aspect of the present crisis has been the utter fecklessness of the American elite in failing to confront it. From both the private and public sectors, across the entire political spectrum, the lack of both will and new ideas has been stunning. . .  we have seen a parade of aged satraps from vast, windy places stepping forward to tell us what is off the table. Every week, there is another Max Baucus of Montana, another Kent Conrad of North Dakota, another Ben Nelson of Nebraska, huffing and puffing and harrumphing that we had better forget about single-payer health care, a carbon tax, nationalizing the banks, funding for mass transit, closing tax loopholes for the rich. These are men with tiny constituencies who sat for decades in the Senate without doing or saying anything of note, who acquiesced shamelessly to the worst abuses of the Bush Administration and who come forward now to chide the president for not concentrating enough on reducing the budget deficit, or for "trying to do too much," as if he were as old and as indolent as they are.


Obama will have to directly attack the fortified bastions of the newest "new class" -- the makers of the paper economy in which he came of age -- if he is to accomplish anything. These interests did not spend fifty years shipping the greatest industrial economy in the history of the world overseas only to be challenged by a newly empowered, green-economy working class. They did not spend much of the past two decades gobbling up previously public sectors such as health care, education, and transportation only to have to compete with a reinvigorated public sector. They mean, even now, to use the bailout to make the government their helpless junior partner, and if they can they will devour every federal dollar available to recoup their own losses, and thereby preclude the use of any monies for the rest of Barack Obama's splendid vision.

Franklin Roosevelt also took office imagining that he could bring all classes of Americans together in some big, mushy, cooperative scheme. Quickly disabused of this notion, he threw himself into the bumptious give-and-take of practical politics; lying, deceiving, manipulating, arraying one group after another on his side-a transit encapsulated by how, at the end of his first term, his outraged opponents were calling him a "traitor to his class" and he was gleefully inveighing against "economic royalists" and announcing, "They are unanimous in their hatred for me -- and I welcome their hatred."

Obama should not deceive himself into thinking that such interest-group politics can be banished any more than can the cycles of Wall Street. It is not too late for him to change direction and seize the radical moment at hand. But for the moment, just like another very good man [Hoover], Barack Obama is moving prudently, carefully, reasonably toward disaster.

Why, then, is everyone so hopeful? Because Americans are very slow to learn that it is economc relationships that govern political actions, and not poitical actions that govern economic relationships. This is another way of saying that those who own rule, and they rule because they own. In a political democracy they may appear to be beaten for a while, but in the end the victory is theirs because the economic power is theirs. They furnish the big campaign contributions; they can use their control of wealth to corrupt public officers; they can even use the people's money to corrupt the people's mind to their purposes, and they are welded into a united front against mercurial popular movements by the 'cohesive power of public plunder.'


It is a tremendous economic power which Mr. Roosevelt is trying to 'check and counterbalance,' for it is concentrated in very few hands. There is, moreover, the curious spectacle of his trying to preserve it in order to check and counterbalance it, for he is continuing Mr. Hoover's policy of propping up with government credit the capital structure through which the American people are exploited. Let us not impugn his motive. As he see it, the life of the country depends on the capital structure --the jobs of the workers, the savings of all the citizens, the profits of the industrialists and bankers and shopkeepers, the livelihood of the farmers, the incomes of landowners and bondholders. And it is quite true that the capitalist way of life depends upon the preservation of the capitalist system. The vast majority of Mr. Roosevelt's fellow-citizens see the thing as he does. They cannot envisage any other way of life.

Suzanne La Follette, "The Roosevelt Revolution", 1933

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Mon Jul 6th, 2009 at 09:49:20 PM EST
here a couple of weeks ago.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 7th, 2009 at 08:59:02 AM EST
Wow, you're a couple weeks ahead of me, not just six hours!

Did you also discuss the article by Ken Silverstein, "LABOR'S LAST STAND: The Corporate Campaign to Kill the Employee Free Choice Act" which has some powerful quotes from the 1970s showing that the rise of corporatism and the shift away from personal earnings gains in the U.S. were the results of deliberate campaigns?

by NBBooks on Wed Jul 8th, 2009 at 09:04:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - LQD: Barack Hoover Obama
It is not too late for him to change direction and seize the radical moment at hand.

Why do I have this nagging feeling that it's almost too late, and if that true, I'm terribly frightened of what comes after.

Hey, Grandma Moses started late!

by LEP on Tue Jul 7th, 2009 at 05:57:25 PM EST

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