“‘The Ray Rice video for the financial sector’: Fired Fed worker unveils secretly taped meetings between regulators and Goldman Sachs showing government ‘is in the bankers’ pockets,’” the London Daily Mail reports:
A fired New York Fed regulator recorded hours of meetings which allegedly show how government supervisors were afraid to ask tough questions of the biggest banks on Wall St.
Carmen Segarra, 41, was brought in by New York’s banking watchdog in the wake of the financial crisis to tighten the government’s grip on the major banks, and assigned to Goldman Sachs.
And after encountering a culture of ‘fear’ and ‘deference’ to the finance giants at Goldman, Segarra explosively started recording meetings in which regulators offer softball questions to bankers, then congratulate themselves for standing up to them.
So corporatist kabuki in other words. Or as Jonah Goldberg wrote in April of 2009:
Honesty and marital necessity require me to state that everything I know about prostitution I have learned from a distance. That said, based on what I’ve gleaned from reading and from films of dubious artistic value, it seems to me that the farther you move up the prostitution price range, the more elaborate the lies become. A streetwalker trolling the docks during Fleet Week has little opportunity for self-rationalization, elaborate rituals, or ornate fictions. She never asks that drunk petty officer from Manila, “Do you love me?”; nor does she wonder why he never calls or writes. We all know what she’s selling, and we’re under no illusions about the fact that it’s for sale. Sure, for an extra $25, she might pretend to enjoy it, but ultimately, the cheaper the cost, the cheaper the lies.
The same holds true, I suppose, with many areas of commerce. A trip to a four-star restaurant involves lots of ritual, to heighten the richness of the experience. The ambiance surrounding the purchase of a McDonald’s Happy Meal, meanwhile, isn’t markedly different from the atmosphere at Home Depot when you buy a toilet brush.
But it’s prostitution that lends itself best to varying degrees of deception. Tony Soprano’s “gumars” always expected to be treated better than the slatterns in the backroom of the Bada Bing Club. And, no doubt, the late French president Francois Mitterand–who fathered a second family with one of his many mistresses–was no stranger to ornate fictions either. As the costs rise, the compliments become more sincere. The relationships grow not only more complex but more reciprocal–and, most of all, the real lies aren’t what the hookers tell the johns, but what both parties tell themselves.
That’s something to keep in mind as we watch the spectacle of American big business and the Democratic party seducing each other once again.
Visit any college campus, any Georgetown salon, any sweaty left-wing netroots comment section, or any space sufficiently accursed to have both Nancy Pelosi and a microphone in it, and you will be informed that the Democratic party stands up to corporate fat cats. President Obama spent much of the last two years denouncing the stranglehold that corporate interests have on American politics. “They don’t represent ordinary Americans, they don’t fund my campaign, and they won’t drown out the voices of working families when I am president.” “Right-wing and corporate forces,” the former director of advocacy for MoveOn.org writes in The American Prospect, “will do everything they can to block our agenda on things like universal health care and climate change.” It’s not just that they tell the world this stuff; they tell it to themselves. Former senator John Edwards–in many ways a cornpone Mitterand–was probably sincere when he said over and over again that he’s been preparing his whole life to fight big corporations in behalf of the one of his “two Americas” that doesn’t live like him. It’s quite easy to imagine his saying words to that effect every morning in front of one of the countless mirrors in his 28,000-square-foot home.
See also: the strange, malodorous, and stillborn kabuki that was “Occupy Wall Street.”
Earlier in 2009, Kevin D. Williamson wrote a perceptive article titled “Losing Gordon Gekko”, which explained that during the 2006 and 2008 elections, “Wall Street has gone over to the Democrats. Should conservatives miss it?”
In 2006 and 2008, Wall Street poured money on Democrats. Big Wall Street firms that made major political contributions — including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, UBS, and Lehman — gave the majority of their contributions to Democrats. The hedge funds followed suit, as they are inclined to do — they depend on the big Wall Street institutions to clear their trades. And it wasn’t just Wall Street: Democrats led in six of the ten big-business sectors tracked by the Center for Responsive Politics: law, health care, defense contractors, communications/electronics, finance/insurance/real estate, and the catch-all category that includes chemical firms, retailers, manufacturers, food processors, and other industrial operators. Republicans held on to agriculture — which is, not coincidentally, the industry in which they are the least interested in practicing capitalism: It’s not the philosophical commitment to free markets that opens up corporate checkbooks, but the promise of favorable exceptions to those principles.
So why is the bulls-and-bears set going donkey? Partly it’s self-interest: Wall Street loves a tax break, but Big Money has over the years found a lot to love about Big Government. Those carbon-offset exchanges may be clearinghouses for products that are, in essence, imaginary, but they are going to make a real bundle for the bankers who set them up — and, since they’ll inevitably have the support of government, there will be relatively little risk involved. And Democrats’ anti-war talk hasn’t spooked the defense contractors. For all the conspiracy-mongering about Halliburton Republicans, now that Democrats control defense appropriations it’s no surprise to find the likes of Rep. Ike Skelton, the Democrat who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, enjoying the support of military providers such as Armor Holdings Inc. What is surprising is that Democrats now lead Republicans overall in financial support from defense firms.
When Obama made his case for the stimulus bill — which is larded with corporate welfare — he was flanked by two big-league CEOs: IBM’s Sam Palmisano and Honeywell’s Dave Cote. For many on the anti-war left — the people who elevated Obama over Clinton during the primary — Honeywell is a war profiteer, only a little less detestable than Halliburton. You’d think this would chap the hide of the Democrats’ progressive wing. For the most part, you’d be wrong, though a few on the left, such as Harold Meyerson, have scolded the Democrats for courting capital. Success has a way of pre-empting criticism: Democrats may have kidded Clinton about being the best Republican president since Gerald Ford — Clinton himself raged that he’d been turned into Dwight Eisenhower — but they loved him, even if he is today seen less as the second coming of FDR than as John the Baptist to Obama’s Jesus Christ Superstar. But there’s no denying Clinton’s great political accomplishment in making peace between the Democrats and Big Business — and cutting into Republicans’ credibility on the economy.
In 2010, CNN reported that “Goldman Sachs was top Obama donor” during election year 2008; in 2012, the firm wisely hedged its bets in 2012, giving more to Romney, but still plenty of funds to Obama and other Democrats as protection money.
Shortly before the 2008 election, The Voice in My Head blog noted that “Goldman Sachs Loves Obama.” and Photoshopped the Obama “O” logo into Goldman’s logo, where it fit all-too-comfortably. In 2011, Glenn Reynolds began routinely dubbing Mr. Obama “President Goldman Sachs.” Given that there’s a revolving door between Goldman Sachs and the Obama (and Clinton) Administration, will the Obama administration pursue Segarra as aggressively as other videomakers and journalists targeted by the pro-corporatist, anti-First Amendment administration?