I was always a defender when I played soccer. The best advice I was ever given as a defender was to focus on the ball not the offensive player’s eyes, upper body, or feet. Your peripheral vision takes those things in. In Washington, D.C. parlance, Deep Throat always had it right – follow the money. Any time you hear a politician, remember to watch the ball and the ball is the money.
Ignore the Middle East, abortion, whatever your hot button issue. These, though vitally important, are peripheral. The overwhelming issue that will structure all of the rest of our decisions for the next decade or even half century, is the reorganization of the economy. It is in dire shape. The pie is imploding and powerful interests are motivated to protect their slice and the current arrangements. To do this in this environment, they must have access to the monies and regulatory powers of the state. Remember, when in a high stakes situation where everyone is rushing you to make the most serious decisions of your life (our lives) and you (we) cannot figure out who is going to be the victim, it is probably going to be you (us).
So don’t focus on Obama’s statements condemning Wall Street bonuses, telling you he cares about you, etc. These are part of the drama. Focus on real behavior. For example, his appointment of Geithner (was he giggling while being “grilled” by the Senators?), Summers, and the sub-secretaries – all deeply implicated in the current catastrophe – or the rush to get the second tranche of the earlier bailout (which has not had a positive effect and for which most of the money is unaccounted for or has been paid out in bonuses to those most directly responsible for the current situation). Neither of these and his other economy-related actions have been to benefit you.
But there is an even more significant “tell.” Do you wonder why Obama is letting the Republicans and Democrats do whatever they want with the stimulus package? The answer to me is quite obvious – he doesn’t care about it and what it does. Look through it – it is chump change for everyone. $1,000 tax break per couple, some money for states and cities, money for the road builders, some for solar energy, some for university students, but all of it chump change. The simple reason is that he doesn’t care about the stimulus because it doesn’t matter.
The big prize is what his funders in the financial sector want and that is the bad bank where they can pour the multi-trillions of dollars of bad loans onto the taxpayer without losing their jobs, their stockholders being wiped out, and some of them having to do the perp walk. It is the next banking bailout where the massive transfer from the taxpayers to the wealthy is going to occur. Watch the ball. Don’t listen to the words, believe the “shocked” indignation, or accept that Obama and the Congressional Democrats do not know what is going on.
Why is it important for us to be skeptical? We are going to have to rebuild this place, and there are only so many resources. If they are squandered today, they will not be available tomorrow. Rich has written in indignation about the spending on highways instead of mass transit and remarked upon how we have to put our cities together in new ways for a new set of people. This will not be possible if we are rushed into fundamental decisions about who will benefit in this crisis.
If you watch the ball, you are much less likely to be faked out.