Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Answer to the $675,000 Question

George Bernard Shaw, in "Major Barbara" argued there is no such thing as "dirty money" or "clean money" in a capitalist society.  Even the Salvation Army is supported by contributions from weapons manufacturers.  Each part of society is interdependent. 

But Bernie Sanders has stung Hillary Clinton with his focus on her speaking fees from Goldman Sachs, reputed bad guys in the financial crisis.  And, remarkably, she has had no good answer; despite all her resources, her answers have ranged from the lame to the tone deaf.

Paul Waldman, writing in a Washington Post blog, recently offered the best answer to the question of why Hillary Clinton accepted so much money from Goldman Sachs, which essentially was an embrace of the cynicism endemic to members of the political class. What you have to do is allow your audience backstage, and simply reveal your underlying disrespect for the very people who give you money; you bite the hand who feeds you. 

You have to "dis" these people. You have to tell the blue collar audience what twits these rich benefactors really are. You have to tell the truth. "They gave me money because I am famous and I have been important and if I win the Presidency,  I will be even more important,  so they want to put a picture of themselves shaking my hand on their 'brag wall,' and they want to be able to tell their buddies on the golf course what they told Hillary at dinner, so they think they've bought a celebrity buddy, but of course, they have not." Or words to that effect. 

And the truth is, if any of your had a chance to make money this easily, you'd do it too. Grip and grin, take the money and run.

Of course, to reveal all this is risky, because to say all this is to throw your contributors under the bus. Saying  this might best be said by others, by journalists and bloggers (like me) or surrogates to have the public trust, like Barney Frank.

What you are saying to your audiences in the 99% is that you have played the 1% for suckers, because you took their money without really loving them. In a sense, you are playing the role of the lady of easy virtue: Pay me, and I'll be seen on your arm, I'll eat dinner with you, I'll drink your wine, but although I may accommodate you, my heart is elsewhere and I think you are repugnant. You are saying you were insincere with these rich people, but now you are being open with the masses. The joke's on them. 

This is a very tough dance to pull off, but Hillary must find a way to do it. If she has any real friends, they will spend a lot of time helping her. 

She was very smart and canny to hit Bernie at his strength:  You are just so pure, you do not accept that anyone else is as pure as you; nobody measures up to your standards, not even Paul Wellstone, who, inexplicably, voted for DOMA.  Certainly not President Obama, who took Wall Street money.

But including Mr. Obama in that retort was not adroit: Plenty of liberal Democrats, most especially Elizabeth Warren, have been disappointed and bewildered by Mr. Obama's failure to jail any Wall Street executive for his role in the financial disaster of 2008.

Trouble is, when you read Elizabeth Warren's white paper on the too big to jail problem, of the 20 cases she lists as examples of cases where somebody should have gone to jail, only the London whale was a case of clear cut fraud.  A lie is an untruth told by someone who knows it is untrue. Simply being wrong about rating mortgage backed securities as AAA when you should have done due diligence is deeply inept and irresponsible, but it's not clear it's criminal.  Doctors who fail to do all the things they ought to do to proceed safely may be negligent, but few would argue they are criminally negligent. 

And, as many have argued, there is Wall Street and there is Wall Street. There are some enlightened, socially responsible, environmentally concerned players on Wall Street.

What Hillary fails to understand is there are voter resentments not uncovered by the media and politicos who simply miss things. Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon was almost never mentioned in the campaign with Jimmy Carter, but exit polls found this motivated many voters, even Republican voters to vote for Carter. 

Hillary Clinton may not appreciate the depths of resentment about Wall Street and the dopes who brought us the mess depicted in "The Big Short," which I think is an under-appreciated force in this election. 

Today, my fellow Granite Staters are voting and I've already cast my ballot for Bernie. But, as I've said in the past, if I were voting in the general election, rather than the primary, I'd vote for Hillary. She will make a solid, reliable President. But before she gets there, she has to learn to take a chance and burn some bridges with the upper 1%.
I have voted in every primary and every election in New Hampshire since 2008. I have never been asked questions by anyone doing an exit poll, never seen anyone doing such a poll or known anyone polled. 
What this means to me is the politicos, whether they are academics or operatives are no better at their jobs than those dummies depicted in "The Big Short" who had no clue who held those mortgages in the mortgage backed securities. It was easier to listen to your equally ignorant peers over lunch than to do the difficulty, tedious and laborious work of actually looking at the real data in which the truth resides. 

I know exit polls are taken in New Hampshire, but what I'm saying is there are not nearly enough.  In early voting, we need to know what the voters are trying to say and that means the sampling has to be thorough and visible and pervasive.  At least in my own worm's eye view, the lessons of New Hampshire will probably be missed. 

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