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Live Chat: Robert Scheer on the Economy

Posted on Aug 12, 2010

(Page 2)

11:22 Robert Scheer

Thu, 12 Aug 2010 19:22:27 GMT


 No, I think that Obama represented a progressive, youthful vision in contrast to what was really a very tired, sour Republican alarmist message. And what he was saying is that we don’t have to be at war with the rest of the world. We can deal with some of our basic problems of infrastructure, education, quality of life. It was a needed, hopeful message. And I don’t blame Obama for the recession—he inherited this very deep recession—neo-depression, if you will. But unfortunately, he also inherited Bush’s policies for dealing with it all, and that has spelled his ruination.

Let me just offer one alternative: The housing crisis is the rot at the center of our economic problems—a crisis brought about by the immensely greedy, selfish, stupid policies of Wall Street to securitize lousy loans and pretend that the lousiest of loans somehow are worthy of investment. When Obama first came in, he was faced with the problem of “what should I do with all this. What do I do with all these homes being foreclosed?” He should have then and should now embrace a policy of keeping people in their homes by preventing foreclosures, and that can only happen by empowering the bankruptcy courts to force the banks to make those deals necessary to keep people above water. But instead of being solicitous of the needs of homeowners, he has catered exclusively to the needs of the Wall Street thieves.

Fortunately, I have a new book which spells all this out—it’s called “The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street.” There’s nothing in this book that Obama didn’t know when, as a candidate, he spoke at Cooper Union in ’08. He spelled it out. The mystery is why he abandoned that wisdom and embraced the Reagan and Bush policies that have proved to be so costly. 

11:23 Comment From Jason

Thu, 12 Aug 2010 19:23:06 GMT

Comment: What is it going to take to get competent financial advisers and leaders? Do you think Geithner, Summers, Bernanke or anyone, really, is finally going to be forced out as more bad information about the bailouts comes out and the economy continues to worsen? It doesn’t look good for Obama to keep those guys around.


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11:24 ShomariHines via twitter

Thu, 12 Aug 2010 19:24:41 GMT


 70% of participants in an nbc/wallstreet poll thinks obama has fallen short on reducing gov spending.

11:27 Robert Scheer

Thu, 12 Aug 2010 19:27:23 GMT


 Well, I don’t think he can do anything about Bernanke. He’s been reappointed, and I don’t think the Fed is going to change much. I do think it’s time for a new economic team, and there’s plenty of good people out there. But this administration is hesitating about putting Elizabeth Warren at the head of the Consumer Protection Agency. This is such an obvious appointment, and they’re worried about how this will look to Wall Street.

Obama can pull in Volcker and Stiglitz and Krugman and ask them. They can say it’s your job as president of the United States to give these people rein or its your job as president to deal with the pain and suffering that Wall Street has caused to be visited upon the American people. All we’ve heard from Obama in that regard is a bit of rhetoric, but certainly his actions with regard to financial reform have been tepid. And I think what we need, and I’m not a big fan of Harry Truman, but I’m old enough to remember that when Truman held big business accountable—I think we need a little of that. Why do we have these banks sitting on all this money? Why do we have these businesses not hiring? Why are they holding back? General Motors, which is now profitable, I guess in the last two quarters—why are most of their cars being made and sold in places like China? Where’s the investment in Detroit? Where are the jobs in the United States? I think it’s time he put pressure in that direction. Where are the jobs in the U.S.? I think it’s time he put pressure in that direction.

11:27 Comment From gerard

Thu, 12 Aug 2010 19:27:26 GMT

Comment: It would be good if you would follow up a bit on your reference to “meritocracy.”  What are the dangers in presuming that expertise is infallible? How does this idea exclude “the public” by implication if not actually?

11:34 Robert Scheer

Thu, 12 Aug 2010 19:34:40 GMT


 Well, we learned this with the Vietnam War, and David Halberstam pointed it out in his “Best and the Brightest” book—that it was the smartest people (so called because they tested well and went to the elite schools etc. etc.) who created this enormous mess called the Vietnam War, that to fight Main Street common sense—what the heck are we doing there? Same thing with Afghanistan—we’re involved with a world-class crook, Karzai, and we’re fighting in the midst of 7 to 8 civil wars. Al-Qaida is no longer there so much. Clearly terrorists can take airplanes, relocate. And yet once again we have these very smart people—some of them the same people; Richard Holbrooke was one of the top architects of Vietnam—and once again they’re talking utter nonsense. There’s a disconnect. And so they make plausible inane theories about winning the hearts and minds of people who don’t want us to win their hearts and minds. That same elitism applies in spades to the economy. The polls show us Americans are hurting. You lose your house, you’re disgraced in front of your children, you lose your nest egg, you lose your job, you lose your dignity. You have trouble sending your kids to school, the whole bit. This elite doesn’t give a damn. They’re not hurting. They know how to protect themselves. They still get their big speaking fees and royalties, went into safe stocks. All the mathematical modeling that came out of Harvard, MIT and these places. And they’re able to justify the creation of these really ... these Ponzi schemes. These are charlatans. But some of them were able to get the Nobel Prize for creating Long-Term Capital Management and other companies built on their math models. And if that weren’t bad enough, we turn to them for a solution to the problems. I think it’s better to listen to the people who are hurting out there and the people who work with those who are hurting.

11:34 Truthdig

Thu, 12 Aug 2010 19:34:47 GMT


 This discussion is missing one of the central points of your [latest] column, which is the role of the mass media in all this. What is the function of someone like Fareed Zakaria? What should it be?

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By felicity, August 13, 2010 at 9:15 am Link to this comment

As our economic system stands, and as long as it is
accepted as the system we want to live under and we are
averse to changing it, the fact is that Main Street
needs the capital of Wall Street to function and Wall
Street does not need Main Street to function (and

And as long as Washington can rely on living off the
fat of the paper economy (Wall Street,) Washington is
not about to change the system.

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