Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig, where this article originally appeared. His latest book is The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America(Twelve).
How dare you throw that tea into Boston Harbor! Such is the anti-democratic arrogance of the fear-mongering pundits and politicians who tell us if we taxpayers don’t instantly give the Wall Street banking bandits a $700 billion bailout, we are destroying America. Instead of applauding representatives from both parties who, for once, heeded the public rather than the fat cats, the established pundits blasted those who dared get out of line.
It was a time for some of the best commentators to fail and, as much as I hate to admit it, for Lou Dobbs, and even Newt Gingrich, to shine. Dobbs called it correctly: The sky is not falling, there is time for reasoned debate, and why isn’t the public being listened to? Gingrich put it best when he said short-circuiting serious Congressional oversight over an enormous transfer of taxpayer dollars to an industry is “un-American.” Others, with whom I typically am in far greater agreement, just rolled over to give the bankers what they demanded.
“When Madmen Reign” was the headline on a column by Bob Herbert in the New York Times that absolves the Democrats from any responsibility for the crisis despite a willingness of their party’s leadership in the past to vote for key legislation proposed by what Herbert condemns as the “anti-regulation, free market zealots” of the Republican Party. Both parties betrayed the principles of a true free market–remember Adam Smith’s invisible hand, under which no market player could unilaterally set price?–in favor of the concentrated power of oligopoly to control everything.
Those Republicans who dared to vote, this time, against the demands of the Wall Street power brokers were derided by New York Times conservative columnist David Brooks as engaging in the “Revolt of the Nihilists.” While suddenly embracing President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal as the positive alternative to nihilistic behavior, Brooks ignored Roosevelt’s main achievement, which was to put the public interest before that of the Wall Street titans.
Wasn’t it nihilistic when Congress, led by Republicans but supported by key Democrats, including then-President Bill Clinton, shredded the protections put into place by Roosevelt to control an ever-avaricious banking industry?