Good golly, don’t they know how capitalism works? They seem to spout the same 1960s rhetoric we’ve heard from every grab-bag group of protesters and anti-establishment movements in the last 40 years. The corporations are exploiting us, ripping us off, endangering our democracy. Pretty nutty, huh? It’s even nuttier considering that I’m referring not to the Occupy Wall Street riff-raff but the president and his political allies.
To begin with, the president has never shown, shall we say, a deep understanding of how innovation, the market and wealth-creation work. ATMs put people out of work, in his worldview. (How many pencil-and-paper manufacturing jobs were “destroyed” by Apple, I wonder.) His latest contribution to know-nothing economics comes in relation to the banks that he has vilified and strangled with a new regulatory scheme crafted by the people who enabled Fannie Mae’s ruinous home mortgage practices (Messers Dodd and Frank). As the Wall Street Journal editorial board describes:
Senator Dick Durbin this week urged customers to stage a run on Bank of America because it recently raised debit-card fees by $5 a month, President Obama piled on by telling regulators to punish BofA, and even Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has joined the fun by vowing that America will “prevail” over the banks.
The fact that the fee was the direct result of a chain of regulatory moves by the federal government seems to have eluded President Obama. Now he says we should be telling the banks to take only a “certain amount of profit.” How much is that, Mr. President?
Keep in mind that this is the man, embued with such economic insights, that proclaimed Solyndra a “good bet.” How would he know?
For a time I thought all such talk was cynical politics, offered up to bond with the “rubes” in America who might be convinced that only the liberal pols have their interests at heart. Now I think that in moments of high stress (imagine how one feels as the presidency and historic legacy melt away), the president’s unvarnished beliefs come through. It’s a crude sort of populism fueled by conspiracy theories, the kind you expect on college campuses — or on the streets of lower Manhattan of late.
This is a pol who tells us we should increase the public sector, dictate to the private sector and then excoriate business for trying to maximize profits. (It’s almost like they think that’s their primary obligation, or something.) At one level it is embarrassing that the president of the United States has economic views that approximate those of a dim college freshman. But actually it’s petrifying. For nearly three years this has been the mentality behind an economic vision that has failed miserably. It’s remarkable the economy isn’t in worse shape.
And he wants four more years. One can hardly imagine what he’d do if he got them.