This story originally appeared at Truthdig. Robert Scheer is the author of The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street (Nation Books).
The presidential debate this week was much ado about nothing, and Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama because he was more energetic in distorting the significance of their minuscule differences. What generally has been celebrated by the mainstream media as a wonky debate over substantive disagreements on the economy and medical reform—“a fundamental choice about the future of America,” Peter Baker trumpeted in The New York Times—was nothing of the sort.
It is absurd to depict this rhetorical stew of superficial nitpicking by two candidates with a proven record of subservience to the Wall Street bandits responsible for wrecking our economy as a meaningful exercise in democratic governance. Both would rather talk about anything but Wall Street’s financing and control of both parties and chose instead to dwell on their nonexistent differences over healthcare reform.
The president gleefully concedes that Obamacare is a carbon copy of the original Romneycare plan in place in Massachusetts, a plan that Obama took to the national level but was similarly designed as an alternative to a single-payer system. Both extend rather than diminish the reach of for-profit insurance companies. Neither plan confronts the cost control issues at the heart of the health crisis.
On the far larger threat to our economic well-being posed by endemic Wall Street greed, both candidates are clearly wedded to the bailout strategy that saved those responsible for the economic meltdown while ignoring the victims among the tens of millions unemployed and foreclosed. Instead of confronting that topic, they were reduced to brief and meaningless quibbling about the Dodd-Frank law that, as Romney correctly pointed out, leaves the concentrated power of the five largest banks intact.
Rare was the commentator who grasped, as did David Weidner in The Wall Street Journal, that the six minutes of the debate devoted to Wall Street regulation was bizarrely disproportionate to the crucial role of the financial industry in first creating and then managing the government’s response to the crisis:
“If you think six minutes out of the planned ninety-minute debate is appropriate, then consider this: Since the last presidential election, we’ve endured the worst stock market, housing and economic crash since the Great Depression. And Wall Street was in the middle of it all.”
Both Obama and Romney favor the Fed and Treasury policy of rewarding Wall Street with free money while ignoring the plight of homeowners, whose underwater mortgages are at the heart of the crisis. Neither candidate, nor terminally hapless moderator Jim Lehrer, even referenced the $40 billion a month that the Fed continues to waste as part of its $2 trillion purchase of the toxic mortgage-based securities that the banks fraudulently marketed. Nor did they mention interest-free trillions made available to the banks that continue their ruthless foreclosure of underwater homeowners whom they refuse to qualify for mortgage adjustments.