I've been reading Thomas Frank's new book The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule, which is full of fascinating stuff about the conservative movement in the US. It's topical too, of course, given how the conservative agenda of gutting government and letting free markets run wild is squarely to blame for what's happening right now.
I was surprised to learn that he's now writing a column at the Wall Street Journal. An excerpt from his latest, from last Wednesday:
Consider the current economic catastrophe, which has been building for a year. Just as it has taken down Countrywide, Bear Stearns, Indymac, Freddie, Fannie, Lehman, Merrill and Lord knows who else in the weeks to come, it has also pulverized the reigning conservative shibboleths of the past 28 years.
There is simply no way to blame this disaster, as Republicans used to do, on labor unions or over-regulation. No, this is the conservatives' beloved financial system doing what comes naturally. Freed from the intrusive meddling of government, just as generations of supply-siders and entrepreneurial exuberants demanded it be, the American financial establishment has proceeded to cheat and deceive and beggar itself -- and us -- to the edge of Armageddon. It is as though Wall Street was run by a troupe of historical re-enactors determined to stage all the classic panics of the 19th century.
By the way, this is the same system the Republicans would still apparently like to put in charge of Social Security. The same system that is minting millionaire CEOs, that is holding the line on wages, and that we will be bailing out for years.
On Monday, John McCain blamed the disaster on "greed by some based in Wall Street." It's a personal failing of some evil few, in other words, and presumably capitalism will start working again once we squeeze the self-interest out of it. In the weeks to come, maybe Sen. McCain will also take a bold stand against covetousness and sloth.
But the structural changes of the past 28 years that have made all this possible -- the waves of deregulation, the takeover of government itself by business interests -- these haven't made too much of an impression on him. In March Mr. McCain actually called for more deregulation in response to the crisis, and at the Republican convention two weeks ago an ebullient Mitt Romney promised that Mr. McCain would take "a weed-whacker to excessive regulation." Just for good measure, this former management consultant also called for yet another round of attacks on the unionized federal workforce, deploring its "tyrannosaurus appetite."
Some tyrannosaurus! Thanks to the party of Romney and McCain, federal work is today so financially unattractive to top talent that it might as well be charity work. It's one of the main reasons -- other than outright conquest by the industries they're supposed to be overseeing -- that our regulatory agencies can't seem to get out of bed in the morning.
Link: Get Your Class War On.
And I found this interview of Michael Greenberger by Fresh Air's Terry Gross last week to be really informative: Was 'Adult Supervision' Needed on Wall Street?