Monday, March 14, 2011

Let Them Eat Shit

I'm not one of those people who jumps all over someone for making an imprudent comment, particularly not when that comment amounts to nothing more than a slip of the tongue. Thanks in part to our panoptic media culture, which includes the 24/7 cable news cycle, we've become far too eager to play the gotcha game anytime somebody says something mildly stupid, typically assigning more value to it than necessary. That said, there have been two examples over just the past few days of guys whose careers depend on America's ongoing and abusive love affair with Wall Street saying something unbelievably tone deaf. We're not talking about innocent indiscretions, but rather comments that would seem to hint at a deeply intransigent, and deeply flawed, view of the world.

Chances are by now you've seen or heard Larry Kudlow's startlingly insensitive response to the fact that the global markets didn't immediately reel in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. On CNBC, where Kudlow's a host, he expressed relief that the disaster's impact was merely on people rather than, you know, stocks. "The human toll here looks to be much worse than the economic toll, and we can be grateful for that." To his credit, he immediately attempted to clarify his position and pull the size-10 Edward Green out of his mouth, and he later went on to tweet that he didn't mean to imply that the potential economic fallout from this tragedy is more important than the deaths of thousands. An argument can be made that what we witnessed from Kudlow is a Freudian slip, and that because he tends to always side with the amorphous giant pool of cash that's floated around the globe like some kind of alien god -- while those who worship it sacrificed the rest of us in its holy name -- he's of course more likely to believe that numbers on an exchange board matter most. Guys like Kudlow, I have to assume, really do think that an economic disaster is the worst kind of catastrophe there is -- hence why they pulled the panic switch so quickly and insanely when it looked like their pursuit of their god's favor had fucked them, and us, into a corner and only an immediate rescue mission from the government could prevent a cataclysm. But at that moment, I do think that Kudlow simply misspoke -- at least insofar as what he was trying to say. Because Kudlow may be reptilian, but he isn't stupid: He knows he can't say that kind of thing on the air and not get hammered for it. He has to at least appear as if he gives a shit. As for his two co-hosts, though -- neither of whom seemed the least bit fazed by Kudlow's cruel retort -- their silence actually speaks volumes about the kind of group-think festering among the Wall Street set and its drooling sycophants in the business media.

Right about the time Kudlow was blowing it on national television, New York Fed President William Dudley was doing his part to drive home the point that the titans of global finance are completely out of touch with the other 99% of us. During a discussion in Queens, a working-class neighborhood if ever there was one, rightfully pissed-off average people pelted Dudley with questions about the ways in which the detestably prevalent practice of commodities speculation had driven up the prices of all sorts of things that actually have a real-world impact on people: food, gas, electricity, etc. Dudley's response was that there's a flip-side to this kind of inflation and that it needs to be looked at in a broader context -- that while some prices are rising, others are holding steady or even declining.

One example, according to Dudley: "Today you can buy an iPad 2 that costs the same as an iPad 1 that is twice as powerful."

The reply from one not-at-all-assuaged audience member: "I can't eat an iPad."

Dudley's comment, once again, really does provide a nice little window into the way these clowns think: everything flows, Randian-style, from the top down; luxuries are as important as necessities, if not more important than; keep the producers fat and happy and everybody benefits. The problem is that this model has been disproved again and again over the past several years. There's nothing the least bit wrong with working hard and earning a lot of money, with putting your earnings into the stock market, and with living well if you're raking it in. I'm not saying that anyone should have to apologize for that in the least. Unfortunately, the game has been rigged and for the first time in America's history it's almost as if a caste system has resulted; the top one-percent not only controls the wealth, it hoards and perpetuates it for itself while the rest of us are expected to shut up and suck it. The American dream can become a reality for anyone only if there's at least a minor amount of fair-play involved -- and that's simply a damn-near comical conceit these days.

Comments like these could just be harmless gaffes, but I'm not so sure. We've heard far too much of this kind of Antoinette-esque thinking lately to just brush it off.


Anonymous said...

I stopped watching CNBC 3 years ago. They're nothing but a bunch of douche bags. I especially dislike Kudlow and his Goldilocks comments prior and during the bust. He's a political economist. He'll do whatever it takes to back up his conservative friends.

Krugman's blog is one to read right now. He's been calling the right on is stupidity for a while, but he seems to have stepped it up recently.

The nice thing about Krugman's blog is that he tries to help educate you about economics in general. He provides data to back it up. Doesn't mean that he's always right but at least he tries. Whereas, someone like Greg Mankiw doesn't really do a lot to help educate you about economics and why he believes what he does.

Le Penseur said...

The American Reality bears little resemblance to the American Dream, but the guys at the top are clearly still fast asleep.

Anonymous said...

Good post, but I think this statement is a bit naive:

"for the first time in America's history it's almost as if a caste system has resulted; the top one-percent not only controls the wealth, it hoards and perpetuates it for itself"

What about wealthy agrarian slave-owners or the robber barons of the industrial age? This is less an aberration and more business as usual.

Workers achieved big gains in wages and quality of living in the early part of the 20th century through unionization. But the government has been chipping away at these gains since WWII on behalf of corporate interests.

Class warfare is a real thing in the US, but most Americans don't acknowledge it b/c it doesn't gel with our romanticized perception of the American Dream.

VOTAR said...

"for the first time in America's history it's almost as if a caste system has resulted"

This is certainly not a new phenomenon in American history. It's only because of the relative rise in middle class prosperity in the decades after WWII that the current backslide in middle class prosperity is even noticeable.

Izar Talon said...

Yeah, I was just about to make a comment about that too, but I see several others got here first; I was specifically going to mention robber barons and slave owners too. It's pretty much a cycle, sometimes better, sometimes worse, but it's ALWAYS like this, with the shit souled trust fund babies living like an aristocracy over he rest of us. There have always been Paris Hiltons among us . Plus the point about the middle class that VOTAR made. But I LOVED that line about the giant amorphous alien money god. Very Lovecraftian.

drater said...

"Comments like these could just be harmless gaffes, but I'm not so sure. "

Come on, Chez, you're not sure? In a country where raising taxes on the very wealthiest by a couple percent is off the table, but chopping Social Security (and more tax cuts for corporations) is the solution to all our problems? Face it, our country is run by sociopaths who will gladly hang the rest of us out to dry if it's good for their portfolio.

namron said...

Slowly, the old Chez returns, laden with golden metaphors. Best post on economic matters in a long time. Thanks.

Chez said...

It's hit or miss these days for me. It has to be because I have quite a bit going on but I'm really trying to make sure the site is a priority again.