Tuesday, April 07, 2009
A rather chilling observation:
“My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks,” Barack Obama told the CEOs of the world’s most powerful financial institutions on March 27, when they cited competition for talent in an international market as justification for paying higher salaries to their employees.(emphasis mine)
Arrayed around a long mahogany table in the White House state dining room, the bankers struggled to make themselves clear to the president, but he wasn’t in a mood to hear them out. He interrupted them by saying, “Be careful how you make those statements, gentlemen. The public isn’t buying that.”
. . .
In a balanced society, an angry mob is never a part of the equation. But if the goal is to throw a capitalist society off balance in order to change it, an angry mob is the ticket. Anger is known to be the easiest and the most effective tool of crowd manipulation. Angry mobs cancel out the rule of law. Infusing anger into a community and turning it into an angry mob, canceling out the rule of law, and changing the balance in a society — this is what community organizers do for a living.
It was often pointed out during the election that Obama lacked management experience. While having a president with no experience is bad, it’s not nearly as bad as having a president with experience as a community organizer.
I think this is a valid point, and an important one. By saying, even as hyperbole, that President Obama's administration "is the only thing between you and the pitchforks", the implication is that the mobs are screaming for blood... and that the banks had better listen to those mobs, because the administration can do little more than hold them back.
(And this, mind you, in response to CEOs justifying their salaries. Even if you accept that the President has a right to question this -- given that those CEOs must now answer to the federal government -- does the President really expect top executives in the world's most powerful financial institutions to work for peanuts? What's to stop them from quitting, finding work where they're respected, and leaving the United States Government with second-raters to run the banks? And does President Obama really have a leg to stand on, warning executives about their multi-million-dollar salaries, when he has just pledged trillions of dollars in other people's money?)
Threatening people with the wrath of the mobs isn't responsible government; that's fear-mongering. (It's also not true, as near as I can tell. Sure, there are plenty of Americans fed up with financial mismanagement, but I don't see people gathering tar and feathers. What I see, rather, is Americans wanting their 401Ks to start going up again.)
If we truly are in danger of angry mobs overturning our financial institutions -- and I don't think it's anywhere near that bad -- then the President should use his "bully pulpit" to calm things down and ensure the rule of law, not browbeat the very targets of those mobs. And if we're not in danger of that, then why on Earth is the President claiming that we are?
Community organizers were instrumental in forcing banks to give subprime loans to unqualified minority borrowers by using the “pitchforks” tactics — protesting in front of the banks, camping on the lawns of the bankers’ family houses, intimidating families, and suing in courts. After the bankers were sufficiently roughed up, a community organizer would show up at their office to “negotiate” the bank’s surrender in the form of bad loans and money for community organizations that pay community organizers for their “services.”
Most Americans will probably associate this trend with the protection racket that was rampant in Chicago in the 1930s. It follows the same pattern: the mob, in conjunction with the unions, would organize strikes and protests, do physical damage, and intimidate business owners. Then a mob representative would meet with the owner and offer “protection” by saying “I’m the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”
Does President Obama understand how bad this looks, particularly given that he's a politician from Chicago? Or is he determined, in spite of appearances, to do all he can to save the system, using the techniques he think will work best? (If so, there are some serious criticisms of his techniques... and he's not listening.)
Or is he determined, in spite of appearances, to do all he can to remake the system? Given how many industries he's trying to revolutionize, from our financial system to the health-care system to the automobile industry, this seems more and more plausible to me as time goes on.
Read the whole thing. I don't agree with all he says, but there's some good stuff in there.
UPDATE: And here's a take that stands the whole thing on its head:
But imagine what would have happened if one or more of the bankers in that meeting with Mr. Obama had had the courage to stand up and remind him of of the facts:
“No, Mr. President. The only thing between the Democrats and the pitchforks is us, the bankers, and that’s the way it always has been. You Democrats used us to buy votes with home loans, requiring us to lend money to people who could not pay it back. You left us holding the bag, Mr. President — you and the rest of the Democrats then in Congress. And you need our cooperation to save your political hide from the people with the pitchforks.”