Make no mistake
by James Howard Kunstler
Originally posted March 28, 2011
Taking in Charles Ferguson’s excellent documentary, Inside Job, about the dark doings of Wall Street in our time, I confess I was awestruck all over again at the complete surrender of Obama to the very characters who embodied the corruption that rotted our system from the heart outward.
Summers, Rubin, Geithner, and a host of other revolving door grifters who did everything possible to set up the implosion of banking, defeat the rule of law in money matters, and ruin millions who wanted nothing more than something useful to do in this society for a living wage.
Most impressive of all in this brave film were the shameless academic mandarins caught on camera trying to weasel out of their greed-driven misdeeds – Glenn Hubbard, chair of the Columbia University Econ department, a perfectly programmed polished WASP (like out of a “Ken” doll box) on the outside, slithering corruption inside, who played a major role in removing all restraints on Wall Street, then served as a director on the boards of several predatory financial giants, including the biggest, Black Rock, and pretended not to remember if he got paid for it; Martin Feldstein of the Harvard Econ department, in-and-out of government like a rat in a cheese-box, who sat on the board of AIG in the months before it blew itself up on credit default swaps, and who saw nothing about the company’s operations that gave off a bad odor after it entered the most massive government receivership the world has ever seen; and most memorably Fred Mishkin, former Federal Reserve governor, now an academic rover, who wrote a cheerleading report for the Icelandic banking system about five minutes before it collapsed, then changed the report’s title from Financial Stability in Iceland to Financial Instability in Iceland, then denied it on camera in the face of obvious evidence, then forgot whether he got paid six-figures to write the glowing report, then dissolved on camera into a maundering puddle of indignity and humiliation.
How do these rogues survive the disclosure of their turpitudes? Is there no one at places like Harvard and Columbia who has any sense of shame or even an inkling of disappointment that they employ such odious hustlers? Apparently not. This is a system with no mechanism of self-regulation left. And there’s Obama at the tippy-top of it serving like a department store mannequin with a Department of Justice that someone has hung a “gone fishin'” sign on. I voted for him in 2008, and I want to start a movement in whatever’s left of the Progressive core to get rid of him. Being a decent, presentable fellow with a nice family is just not enough. Even his vaunted speech-making abilities have gotten on my nerves. If I hear him say “make no mistake” one more time, someone will have to restrain me from kicking in the flat screen TV. Obama, it turns out, is the mistake.
Can’t any of us begin the reform of the Democratic Party, starting with resigning from being Wall Street’s bitch? Granted, the age of labor unions may be over for a while, maybe forever (who knows?), and the age of government money hand-outs on the grand scale to everybody-and-his-uncle, too. But how about just a party of intelligence and courage? Wouldn’t that be enough to start with? A party capable of setting some limits and enforcing them. A party able to understand the signals that the future is sending us about resource scarcity. A party willing to engage and defeat stupidity, such as climate change denial, and drill-drill-drill cretinism, and “creation science,” and all the pietistic hypocrisies of the Sunbelt know-nothings. A party willing to drag characters like Lloyd Blankfein into a court of law to answer straight-up fraud charges. A party willing to admit that if you can’t control both the terrain and the people’s behavior in Afghanistan, then there’s no excuse for prosecuting a war there.
I have a lot of hope for the millennials, the young people just coming up. They’re going to get sick of living in an ethical vacuum and sick of political paralysis.Their brains are going through the final stage of development where it arrives at the ability to make judgments. They are going to judge the Boomers and their X’er successors harshly and they’re going to remind us that Americans are capable of valiant action even without the trappings of jingoism and sports metaphors.
In the meantime, we can look forward to a year of spectacular unraveling. Our money system probably can’t survive the crack-up of revolving obligations that were ginned up so that bankers could cream off fortunes from every exchange of any sort of paper on the face of the earth. The European banks have nowhere to go anymore with Ireland and Portugal crapping out. Bond-holders are finally going to have to eat a lot of losses. Governments have fallen and more will go down – but, of course, more to the point is what governments will follow them in power? Probably more audacious ones, run by people who intend to act, perhaps even badly.
The Middle East and North Africa have the look of spinning into World War Three. The action just doesn’t seem like it’s going to simmer down anytime soon in a half-dozen nations that have started gunning down their own people – and there’s Iran sitting rather quietly on the sidelines, or so it appears for the moment, as the whole region rearranges itself to suit them better. Wait until Hezbollah starts lobbing missiles into Israel. You’ll see the big “tilt” sign light up the sky. Anyway you slice it there, America better get ready for a lot less imported oil. There’s really nothing we can do that will change that now, and drill-drill-drill will not come close to mitigating our losses, no matter how much Larry Kudlow wrings his hands.
Poor Obama. On the global chessboard of fate, he’s the powerless king facing down ranks of dark knights and implacable bishops. All he can do is sidestep their onslaughts. Even the pawns are beginning to moil and roister in the background. He’ll be on TV tonight. Make no mistake.