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Live Chat: Robert Scheer on Obama’s Call for Less Regulation

Posted on Jan 21, 2011

(Page 2)

Anderson: OK. Well, going back to your column, we have a question from Truthdig member BarryDalton, who says: “Your column is fair in regards to the Clintons, but isn’t it too early to tell whether Obama is simply greasing the wheels for the next election without any real intention of weakening important regulations? Certainly there has to be one or two regulations that give a government worker something to do but aren’t particularly effective. He can have his political cake and eat it too.”

Scheer: Well, look. I hope I’m dead wrong on Obama. I mean, I voted for Obama; I actually made a financial contribution that at the moment I couldn’t afford, because I was afraid he might lose. And I would like nothing better than to be dead wrong on my assessment of this administration. Trust me. And I would say that even if it were a Republican administration. I want a happy ending. I’d like to think we can get out of this mess. I’d like to think we could solve the problems we have. You know, it doesn’t give me any great pleasure that there are 50 million Americans who have mortgages that are worth considerably less than the value of their house. It doesn’t make me feel better that millions of people are losing their homes, and when they lose their homes they have to pull their kids out of school, and their whole self-esteem, their whole sense of their life is destroyed. So, you know, I don’t like wallowing in despair. And I would love to wake up six months from now or two years from now and say, “God, I got Obama wrong.” I hope that happens.

However, I think the signs are very worrisome, because as I said in the column, Obama seems to be following the Clinton trick. And it’s working! The Wall Street Journal poll now shows he’s up to 54 percent popularity. He’s seen as a moderate. He’s going to probably get more money from Wall Street—he got quite a bit from Wall Street in the last election—and you know, he may get that second term. If it were just a question of getting rid of needless regulations…and, trust me, I’ve lived in this country for a long time; I know we have a lot of needless regulations. I’m not a fan of government bureaucracy; I have to go over to county and city buildings all the time and argue about this tax or this bill or what have you. I don’t live a life where I have agents who take care of that. And I don’t really … obviously we could get rid of all sorts of regulations. That’s not what they’re talking about. He didn’t come out with just, “Oh, let’s get rid of needless regulations.” He wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal that was a white-flag column. It was throwing up his hands and saying “Tell me what to do.” And then he’s going to the Chamber of Commerce with the explicit message: “How can we cooperate? Tell us what to do.”

Here’s a Chamber of Commerce—deceitful crowd—that put money into the people, to win the Republicans who were demagogues in this midterm election, to finance them, blaming not Wall Street, blaming not the radical deregulation, but blaming the government and its faint-hearted efforts at regulation. And so the language is very similar to that Clinton employed: “We have to have a modern economy. We have to have regulations for the 21st century. We have to compete abroad,” et cetera, et cetera. And so he’s really talking about derailing the Consumer Protection Agency. I’m afraid he is. Maybe I’m wrong. I hope I am. One way we can make sure that I’m wrong is if we can mount letter-writing campaigns and e-mail campaigns, and people can say “Hey, we’re worried, President Obama. Don’t betray us on this.” That’s why I wrote the column: I’m trying to get people agitated about this so that they will do something.


Square, Site wide

But in the main, it’s not really a question of regulation. No one likes regulations, unless you happen to be some mindless bureaucrat who just wants to push people around. What we’re really talking about is anti-fraud. We’re talking about transparency. This word “regulation” gives the wrong impression. What you really want is to make sure when the banks put mortgages together, that they’re doing it in a transparent way. When they extend a loan, make sure that they’re following reasonable procedures of informing the consumers, that the language is clear, that people are not being deceived. So we’re really talking about anti-fraud rather than regulation. And that’s what was destroyed by the policies of Clinton, of George W. Bush; and the radical deregulation was really allowing these people to commit fraud and have it be legal. That’s what we’re really talking about: the collateralized debt obligations, the credit default swaps, to let AIG issue what they claim were insurance policies on these things and not put any money up to back it up. The incredible leveraging that went on, the deception in the writing of mortgages, the packaging people’s nest eggs, their security, their dream of retirement into some kind of security that they sold and resold and, you know, tranches and all this gibberish—which everybody now concedes. And that happened not because we had excessive regulation; it’s because we ended fraud prevention. That’s really what happened.

So what I’m hoping is that this Consumer Protection Agency, which is the only real thing to come out of Obama so far, will have some muscle. It looks like it’s going just the other way; the Republicans, elected with the help of the Chamber of Commerce and the House, are now going after Elizabeth Warren, they’re going after her agency, they’re threatening not to fund it. So this already weakened consumer protection is in danger of being wiped out, and clearly they’re trying to reverse even the small gains in regulation of the financial community that were pushed through in the last Congress.

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Fat Freddy's avatar

By Fat Freddy, January 23, 2011 at 1:30 pm Link to this comment


Wasn’t Milton Friedman the guy who gave us “trickle-down economics”?

No. Friedman was a monetarist, not a Supply-Sider”. Perhaps you should try reading Wikipedia to get a basic understanding of the difference. Art Laffer, inverter of the “Laffer Curve” gave us Supply-Side economics.

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Fat Freddy's avatar

By Fat Freddy, January 23, 2011 at 1:25 pm Link to this comment


First of all, we need to distinguish between banks and other businesses. IMHO, what we need to do, is deregulate private enterprise, and “set banks free”. Banks only operate with special permission and favoritism of the government. The government granted the permission to “create” money through fractional reserve lending, and the Federal Reserve. There was a time when all corporations were special privileges from the government, like banks today. That was known as a part of Mercantilism. Today, anybody can incorporate a business, or form a corporation. However, there are still special favors granted to a select few corporations, such as tax subsidies, grants and patents.

Banks are not sitting on hoards of cash. They are engaging in faulty bookkeeping. The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB)has altered its rule on capital reporting requirements (Ruke 157, 166 and 167). The banks are still under-capitalized, they just “look good” on paper.

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By prisnersdilema, January 22, 2011 at 6:50 pm Link to this comment

Who or what is OJama? Is he a virus, in our political system? Or is he aTrojan horse?

Is he invading the body politic, to reproduce his ilk, and generate more like himself?

Was he designed from the start to sell hope, but deliver hopelessness? We need an
antidote to his politics of despair, in the form of primary challenges in all the states,
every single one of them.

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By ardee, January 22, 2011 at 7:13 am Link to this comment

Ahh yes, deregulation, because after all haven’t our corporations proven themselves capable of self policing and acting responsibly? BP, Goldman Sachs, Halliburton, Massey Energy all bastions of the public interest.

How many more examples do we need to fully comprehend that neither major party works for us?

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By DofG, January 22, 2011 at 12:39 am Link to this comment

If we can, for a moment, come out of the weeds of infinite particulars, we must step back and recognize that what we are really dealing with technology adavancing ahead of our ontology. And the reason why this is increasingly dangerous, and difficult to change is that culturally we’ve become so overly egocentric in our view of ourselves and everything we’ve created. We just won’t accept the fact that this thing called “existence” is not about us-the ego in Man. Even the science of quantum physics acknowledges that we are not even the “ultimate observer” of our own reality. And yet, rather than seeking the key that would transcend us from the slavery of the ego, we delude ourselves in pretending that our conventions can successfully operate without the benefit of any practical understanding of our immutable cosmological paradigm.

If one starts with the driver of capitalism, which is competition, one would think of it as some sort of construct of the human intellect, when it’s just our collective impulse towards selfish ends. And one could loosely argue that was fine up to a certain point. However, we also have to contend with the “law of change” in the sense that as the world has become smaller and more complicated, the “immaterial” part of the equation that expresses our collective continuity, has exposed a grave paradox from the absence of its utility. In other words, capitalism having become increasingly untempered, is now speeding toward becoming a full blown pathology, under the pretension of intellect! Its the unfortunate scenerio of “living to eat”, where large corporate entities are suffering from the weight of their own success, and like cancer, needing to forever feed (in competition)to survive.

In short, our democracy was structurally predicated on the “sphere”-a equilaterally inclusive self government. However, our economic system is inherently pyramidal, where wealth, via ill advised government policies, naturally gravitates towards the apex. This is the paradox. And this paradox expresses itself especially during an economic infarction that relies on taxpayers for its resuscitation. (Notice also, that when the private sector disposes labor during a recesssion, people just naturally expect government to put them back to work, when the government didn’t hire, nor fire them!) Again, this is the political paradox in the hierarchial structure of “capital”!

The solution is conceptually easy. However, only the evolution of our consciousness can make harmonious change a reality, especially when many in our body politic is still lacking even in their understanding of the basics of government.

But to go back into the weeds, Obama stated some time ago that he would examine any regulations that would hamper “competition and growth”, but maintain that he would regulate that which would need regulation.

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By Wikileaks for Nobel, January 21, 2011 at 11:24 pm Link to this comment

The human capacity for self-deception proves almost infinitely plastic, at least in the political realm.  Bob Scheer is no fool—he’s been around, beginning with the entire Vietnam atrocity—so he has every reason to see things as they are and correspondingly speak the truth.  That’s why it is puzzling to see him immediately drop his sometimes-epiphany about the current Democratic phony in the White House, as soon as there appears any shred to latch onto.  This time, it’s the consumer-protection angle, and this in a conversation based on Obama’s acknowledged fealty to Wall Street. 

Please, Mr. Scheer, stop drinking the kool-aid.  Talk to Chris Hitchens, if you need someone to help you shake your DT’s for the photogenic phoney, Obomber.

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By donald m, January 21, 2011 at 10:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A question for Mr. Scheer:  At what point, or what will have to happen for the big bankers and other corporate leaders to catch on that, in their heedless profiteering that is wrecking the broader economy and visiting ruin on so many, they are killing the goose that laid the golden eggs that has been making them rich—or perhaps, have already killed it.

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By Chelsea, January 21, 2011 at 7:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

George Bush #3

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By Michael Aubry, January 21, 2011 at 2:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sheer is a breath of fresh air.  Too many economic discussions (including academic)concern mathematical models, theory, and political considerations. What is glaringly missing is any mention of ETHICS.  Economic activity does not occur in a theoretical vacuum, but instead is a real social force with social consequences. Consequently, there needs to be more conversation about the inevitable ethical considerations involved in economic dynamics.  The capitalist’s “labor saving device” is likely to be a labor destroying device to labor itself.  Wall Street’s opacity, its easily exploited cryptic mechanisms, all need to be opened - in the mainstream arena - to ethical examination.

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skimohawk's avatar

By skimohawk, January 21, 2011 at 2:06 pm Link to this comment

Wasn’t Milton Friedman the guy who gave us “trickle-down economics”?

May as well have quoted something from Wikipedia…. would have made as much sense.

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By RayLan, January 21, 2011 at 1:53 pm Link to this comment

Correction: my post to PRGP should have been addressed to ‘surfnow’

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By felicity, January 21, 2011 at 1:20 pm Link to this comment

Fat Freddy - Friedman aside (which is where I wish he
had been for his entire career) does this make sense. 
The financial services industry has been sitting on
mountains of cash waiting for complete de-regulation
of its industry before putting it to work in the

What else would explain Obama’s call for less
regulation.  The economy is going to go nowhere when
cash sits stagnating in bank vaults. By sitting on
the money, the Street had us by ‘the short ones.’ 
Obama, like Clinton before him (and the public) had
no defense when the Street delivered its final coup
de grace - de-regulate or ‘die.’

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By ~gonzodave, January 21, 2011 at 1:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


The financial upheaval in the US—that has essentially franchised the flesh-and-blood citizen taxpayer and our constitutional system to corporate interests—can be easily understood as an extension of Politically Correct, Identity Politics. From this historical perspective, it can be seen that the open protests behind civil rights, women’s rights, Native American rights, and gay rights were needed in order to establish validity, recognition, and constitutional advances.

The now successful, ongoing, Corporate Citizen’s Rights movement, by contrast, was carried out covertly and with rare exceptions, away from the public eye. Investigative media coverage, on a national level, has been censored due to corporate and congressional affiliations. Beginning with the President, who has surrounded himself with Wall Street and GE money men, no one in Washington is pursuing criminal charges against this international, financial terrorism.

One last bit of comment - socialism is not a dirty word. All branches of government, police, fire, sewage, emergency services, roads, and the military are socialized, taxpayer funded public services. The result of Corporate Citizen’s Rights has turned out to be, and will continue to be from now forward, socialized corporate losses.

Get a grip and get used to it. Or inform yourself so you are a not a part of the ignorance that is falling under the voodoo spell of Corporate Citizen’s Rights. “The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street” by Robert Sheer, is a great place to start.


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By RayLan, January 21, 2011 at 11:19 am Link to this comment

“The only faction that uses violence in Amerika is the Right”
That’s not entirely true since at the beginning, Union organizations promoted violence against the ‘scabs’.

But generally I agree, this side of the pond, the Left is committed to non-violence.

But in Europe and Britain, the Left is typically the faction that goes violent. That’s not surprising since the French Revolution was a peasant revolt.

It’s not so much the violence, but the legitimacy of the circumstances that incite it- one being the serious exploitation of the poor and working class.

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By surfnow, January 21, 2011 at 10:16 am Link to this comment

The only faction that uses violence in Amerika is the Right. I’m sure that’s one of the reasons why Obama has been such a good little President lackey and won’t rock the boat. I’m sure he doesn’t believe the Warren Commission whitewash anymore than anyone with half a brain.

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By PRGP, January 21, 2011 at 9:56 am Link to this comment

I’m already a frustrated independent who cringes at the choices offered the electorate every two years.  Following the money leads us to the plutocrats.  The French had the right idea in the late 1700s.  Perhaps that’s the only way the “powerless” can affect change - revolution.

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By surfnow, January 21, 2011 at 9:48 am Link to this comment

Which is why I can’t believe any true progressive would still be supporting Obama. He escalated an illegal war, supports privatization of the school system and deregulation of not only the financial industry but big oil and pharamacy. How is he any different from Clinton, Bush or Reagan? 
And please don’t answer with that absurd list of accomplishments, like
Obamacare and
The Repeal of DADT

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Fat Freddy's avatar

By Fat Freddy, January 21, 2011 at 7:55 am Link to this comment

Something to ponder:

The ICC [Interstate Commerce Commission] illustrates what might be called the natural history of government intervention. A real or fancied evil leads to demands to do something about it. A political coalition forms consisting of sincere, high-minded reformers and equally sincere interested parties. The incompatible objectives of the members of the coalition (e.g., low prices to consumers and high prices to producers) are glossed over by fine rhetoric about “the public interest,” “fair competition,” and the like. The coalition succeeds in getting Congress (or a state legislature) to pass a law. The preamble to the law pays lip service to the rhetoric and the body of the law grants power to government officials to “do something.” The high-minded reformers experience a glow of triumph and turn their attention to new causes. The interested parties go to work to make sure that the power is used for their benefit. They generally succeed. Success breeds its problems, which are met by broadening the scope of intervention. Bureaucracy takes its toll so that even the initial special interests no longer benefit. In the end the effects are precisely the opposite of the objectives of the reformers and generally do not even achieve the objectives of the special interests. Yet the activity is so firmly established and so many vested interests are connected with it that repeal of the initial legislation is nearly inconceivable. Instead, new government legislation is called for to cope with the problems produced by the earlier legislation and a new cycle begins.”

- Milton Fiedman

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RayLan's avatar

By RayLan, January 21, 2011 at 7:28 am Link to this comment

‘The lesser of two evils’ rationale keeps this incompetent two party system going. This is how they play off one another to capture the American public.
What they have in common is more disturbing than what seems to divide them- namely the big corporate liplock under the fake rubric of creating jobs.
Corporations have been serviced by the ruling administration on all fours for decades and there is no evidence that doing so creates jobs. The stimulus was one such felatio - but jobs were not forthcoming. De-regulation is more of the same that got us into the mess. Obama is on record having said so several times. He is a shameless dishonest manipulator.

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skimohawk's avatar

By skimohawk, January 21, 2011 at 3:02 am Link to this comment

another member mentioned something in another thread which merits repeating:

WHAT IF all those in states where one registers to vote and signs on to a “party affiliation” were all to revise their voter registrations and say they were “independent”?

Would THAT get their attention?

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skimohawk's avatar

By skimohawk, January 21, 2011 at 2:31 am Link to this comment

Mr. Scheer said:
“And you do fall for the lesser evil. And if the Republicans put up some horrendous candidate in the next election, I’ll probably have to support Obama.”

And therein lies the crux of the problem at hand: the resignation and acquiescene of the electorate, voting for the lesser of two evils, and against their own best interests.

For all the reasons you mention in the interview, Obama isn’t much different than Bill Clinton. It seems to me obvious that he’s owned by Goldman-Sachs.
The only “change” we’ve seen has been for the worse, unless you’re a Big Bank, Wall Street, or Big Oil.
A horse of a different color, but it’s the same jockey, the same track, and will end up at the same finish line: more of the same.

The stranglehold of the Democrat/Republican machine ( I see little difference between the two, other than their rhetoric and demagoguery ) must be broken.

Abandon Obama.
Abandon Democrats.
Abandon Republicans.
Vote for Something Else.

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