Saturday, April 2, 2016
The Lies of Neoliberal Economics (or How America Became a Nation of Sharecroppers)
CHRIS HEDGES: So, we spoke in previously about the parasitic quality of the banks, hedge funds and the speculative class that has in essence cannibalized the country – including, interestingly, industry itself, and forced down the throats of the American public an unsustainable debt peonage, whether that’s through student loans, predatory credit card interest rates where it’s that bait and switch – where you get zero percent interest and next thing you know, you’re paying as high as 26 percent, 23 percent …
MICHAEL HUDSON: If you miss a payment.
HEDGES: If you miss a payment. Mortgages, with many houses now underwater because of 2008. I want to look first at the self-identified liberal class within the Democratic Party, including Barack Obama. It often uses the language of economic justice, and will even chastise Wall Street rhetorically, but has been as committed to this neoliberal project as the Republicans.
HUDSON: The key of demagogic politics is to realize that the people who are really backing you are your campaign funders. Your job as a politician is to say, “I can deliver this constituency to your backers.” Obama was a genius at doing what Donald Trump is trying to do today: taking a constituency. That’s his column A: a focus group listing everything the constituency wants. They want debt relief. They want better jobs. They want higher minimum wage.
HEDGES: And not trade agreements like NAFTA and …
HUDSON: Right. And then column B, that he didn’t tell them, was what the campaign backers on Wall Street want. Obama was picked essentially by Robert Rubin, who then became head of Citibank after having come out of the Goldman Sachs. Obama was picked by Rubin of Wall Street to promise was he was going to really do. It was what any president today is going to do: A politician’s job is to deliver whoever voted for you to your backers, who are on Wall Street. Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, but especially if you are a Democrat – that’s really the Wall Street wing of the American political system. The Republicans are for the corporate monopoly, oil and gas wing of it.
As soon as Obama got in, Hank Paulson – the Republican Treasury Secretary – was talking to Barney Frank and said, you know, we were supposed to, under TARP, have some of the money to go for debt writedown.
HEDGES: Explain TARP.
HUDSON: TARP was Troubled Asset Relief Program. It was supposed to treat banks as if they were troubled. If you’re a criminal and you’re stealing from people, that was called “troubled.” There’s a lawsuit recently in in the news about a rich boy drove his car and killed four people. His defense was, “It’s not my fault, I have affluenza. I’m so rich that I don’t have a social sense. So of course I drove away. But I’m innocent, because I’m rich. What do you expect?”
Essentially that’s the Goldman Sachs view of the economy. You cause collateral damage all over, but that’s what Wall Street does. You can’t punish them for it. They’re just doing what a predatory financial institution does. So Obama said “No, , I’m not going to do that,” [meaning write down the mortgage debts as he had promised voters in Column A]. He came in and appointed Wall Street’s main lobbyist, Tim Geithner, as Treasury Secretary.