Sunday, June 27, 2010

Authorized Media: "Banks Dodged Bullet"

Read the BusinessWeek article here. Here's an excerpt:
"A deal reached by members of a House and Senate conference early this morning diluted provisions from the tougher Senate bill, limiting rather than prohibiting the ability of federally insured banks to trade derivatives and invest in hedge funds or private equity funds.

Banks “dodged a bullet,” said Raj Date, executive director for Cambridge Winter Inc.’s center for financial institutions policy and a former Deutsche Bank AG executive. “This has to be a net positive.”

Before we know it, election season will be upon us and we will be aswim in calls to support Democrat incumbents. Presumably, the Dems won't try to sell their (basically conservative) politics as "change" this time around. They'll sell their ticket as a bulwark against Tea-bagger reactionaries.

But what happened during the two years of massive Democrat House majorities, a supermajority in the Senate, and an initially popular young president who was talking about fundamental change?

We saw the reactivation of the US's Latin American military strong arm in 2008, escalation in Afghanistan, complete continuity with the Bush years in terms of treasury policy, quick surrender on the already compromised "public option", failure to repeal anti-union laws that prevent organization of workplaces, increased drone attacks on Pakistan, severe cuts to public services, spending freezes for everything except the defense budget, refusal to enact progressive reform on the GLBT-rights front, a U-turn on off-shore drilling and an embrace by Obama of "drill baby drill", deference to a for-profit oil company that has devastated the Gulf of Mexico, etc. Now we have, basically, a failure to even secure adequate window-dressing to cover the fact that serious regulatory reform will not be passed.

It is more clear to me than ever that all progressive and left-minded people in the US need to organize independently of the Democratic machine, build existing social movements, and start new ones. We need to follow the example of the Black freedom movement of the 1950s and 60s- and, as Sherry Wolf has recently put it, "make them do the right thing". Of course, the ultimate aim must be to eliminate a social system in which there is a "them" who need to be made to do what's in the interest of the vast majority of people.


dnw said...

how would you respond to the much-heard liberal mantra that "change happens in baby steps; not overnight", and that the Democratic party offers tangible, albeit small successes which could lead to more substantial reform? (along these lines, overtly anti-progressive "reforms" like oil-drilling could be discarded as unfortunate outliers).

T said...

How might I reply? First of all, baby steps in the right direction are one thing- but it's not even clear that these are steps in the right direction. The bill is window-dressing for non-reform, and behind closed doors capital is laughing about it. We can demand more, and there's no reason to sit down and shut up and rest content with the crumbs (if we can even call them that) that the Dems allow to fall from the table.

Also- I think a quick glance at history shows that this liberal mantra is simply false.

How does change happen? Well, it obviously depends on what's at stake and how power is distributed.

If power (in this case, finance capital) is averse to change (having their activities regulated), then change will not be forthcoming from those in power. Elites will have to be forced, pressured into changing existing arrangements. And elites are not stupid- when it is obvious that there is a public outcry against their practices, they realize SOMETHING is going to change. But their goal then becomes: make it so that things "change" in such a way that they really don't change at all. Another tactic elites use is to simply chip away at reform efforts through their channels to elected officials until the "reform" legislation is nothing of the sort (see the Health Care bill, for example).

Obama received massive sums from financial institutions during the 2008 election cycle (as did McCain, although the financiers aren't dumb- they know which way the winds blow). His cabinet was essentially a reunion of various Goldman, et al. alumns. Is it any surprise that the administration and Congress aren't hammering away at their own class base (i.e. finance capital)?