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

Posted on Jan 21, 2011

(Page 3)

Anderson: OK. Here’s kind of a to-the-point question from Sheila from Cottekill, N.Y.  She asks: “How is it possible that so soon after a near collapse of our economy, the corporate interests are holding us hostage again? How can Obama be such a hypocrite and think we, the people who elected him, won’t see through his weakness for the corporate pandering it is?”

Scheer: Well, the problem is, money talks. You know, money can do a lot. We live in a society where we educate people, particularly the best and the brightest—the ones who go to the better schools, who get the better grades—to focus on their career, and not a career of serving, but rather a career of getting a lot of money. Or getting a lot of toys. That’s the standard of success; we de-emphasize ethical concerns. My god, as a teacher, when I bring up things that Jesus said—you know, the good Samaritan, notions of ethics, when we talk about what Scripture says about usury, about not taking advantage of your neighbor … . I asked my students last night in class, I said, “What’s the credit [card interest]—tell me, what are you paying?” and one kid said, “I’m paying 27 percent on my credit card.” From the school! With the football team on it. Oh, really? 27 percent? Well, I think Scripture, whether interpreted by a Muslim, a Jew, or a Christian, would find that to be usurious, a betrayal of the whole idea of not taking advantage of the vulnerable. But now, what we teach in the business schools, in the law schools, is basically: Rip off what you can. And money influences that in an extreme way. These people can offer…they’ve got the smartest, sharpest-talking people to be their publicity agents, their lawyers, their representatives. They can contribute to all the candidates.

And just think about it: the fellow who’s now chief of staff—Daley—for Obama, who really guards the door to this president, was making $5 million when the rest of the people were losing their homes? Working for JPMorgan that had these toxic assets? We’re not talking about ancient history; we’re talking about a year ago, and two years ago. He leaves with a $7 million payoff and we expect this guy to feel the pain of people out there? And I’m afraid that the talking heads on television, the pundits, these people get what, $75,000 for a speaking fee—very often from these same banks? Or from these trade associations and so forth? So we have … this is not the democracy of the founders. They thought the free press that they wanted to protect was, you know, anybody could do it. You have a pamphlet, you put up a wall poster, you speak, you’re the town crier. No! The media now is controlled by the very people who profit from these laws that allow swindling, and it’s amazing to me how much does get out, but it’s very little of what we need to know.

So, yes, I think they will get away with it. The only thing blocking them is reality, OK? That’s the thing blocking it. And Obama has to know that if this economy is still suffering in this way at the time of the next election, he’s going to be in trouble. No matter how many PR people you have, no matter how much money you have from Wall Street, you can’t fool people all of the time. And right now there’s kind of a feeling, “Maybe he saved us from the Great Depression; maybe there’s something that’s going to happen; maybe it’s going to loosen up.” I hope so! But if the numbers of the people who are long-term unemployed, if the housing market, if basic consumption is still down at the time of the election, then there will be a change. I’m afraid it might be a change for the worse, and these demagogues from the right might score some victories again.


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Anderson: OK. Well, speaking of the right, we have a question from Gustavo, who asks: “Do you think this move toward deregulation of Wall Street is a move to soften up, or to avoid, the Republican opposition to projects such as health care reform?”

Scheer: Well, clearly, the rationalization for what Obama is doing is: “We have to steal the thunder of the conservatives”—the so-called conservatives, I don’t think they’re real conservatives—“who won in the midterm election and we have to show we’re pro-business, and we have to show we’re not wild socialists,” and all this. Which is the silliest thing in the world, given how conservative his health care plan is. I mean, if the health community—and by that I mean the people who profit from it—were at all logical about their long-term interests, they would embrace Obama’s reforms, so-called, because they don’t really control costs; they will not keep down profit; there is no public option. There really is no restraint on costs. This was based on what happened in Massachusetts, their proposal—which was a Republican proposal. Yet the very small steps that Obama has taken are branded as wild-eyed socialism and radicalism and so forth. They’re nothing of the sort. But I think clearly Obama’s strategy, which is the same as Clinton’s strategy, was to move to the right and to embrace these people. I think it’s a failing strategy. I think when Clinton did it, it ushered in this era of greed. I hold Clinton, the Clinton bubble, responsible for the fundamental changes … .

I know we’ll have a lot of readers, people who hear me on the radio, read the column, read me on Truthdig…some of our other Truthdig writers disagree quite bitterly with me. We go quite a range; we have people who are still very sympathetic to Clinton. I know when I work out at the athletic club, people give me a hard time: “Why are you so nasty about Clinton?” or “Why won’t you give Obama more slack?” And my gut feeling is to say “Sure!” I liked Clinton. I interviewed the guy when he was governor; I interviewed him after. I interviewed him after he was president. He’s very charming, and I certainly felt for him when he was under this vicious attack from the right wing and so forth, over the whole Monica thing. But the fact is, when I look at the record, and to the degree that I can be a scholar and be a serious reporter…that’s why I wrote the book, you know. I covered this stuff when I was a reporter for the Los Angeles Times; I saw it play out. And the reality is that Clinton bears as much responsibility as anyone—Reagan, George W. Bush, anyone—for the mess that we’re in. And he did it because he was trying to placate Wall Street. He listened to the Robert Rubins and the Lawrence Summerses, and all these people who said: “Give them what they want and they’ll be well-behaved.” Well, they weren’t well-behaved. And I’m just afraid that Obama’s moving down that path. Now, for people who want to prevent that: Open your eyes! Is that what he’s doing? Is he supporting Elizabeth Warren? Is he pushing for regulation? What’s happened to the Volcker rule? What’s going on with Congress? And let’s see. And as I’ve said all through this, I’d love to be proved wrong. Trust me, I’d love it. I would celebrate being wrong,  OK?

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Fat Freddy's avatar

By Fat Freddy, January 23, 2011 at 2:30 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 2:25 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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prisnersdilema's avatar

By prisnersdilema, January 22, 2011 at 7:50 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 8:13 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 1:39 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 22, 2011 at 12:24 am 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 11:10 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 8:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

George Bush #3

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By Michael Aubry, January 21, 2011 at 3:09 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 3:06 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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RayLan's avatar

By RayLan, January 21, 2011 at 2:53 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 2:20 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 2:03 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 12:19 pm 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 11:16 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 10:56 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 10:48 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 8:55 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 8:28 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 4:02 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 3:31 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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