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Should We be Taibbis In Our Towns?


Matt Taibbi appeared on the Parker/Spitzer Show. As always, he is eloquent and funny in describing the sad state of our nation's failed political and economic system. His new book "Griftopia" explains how the economic crisis happened. He, like John Edwards, identifies Two Americas. There are the grifters and then the rest of us.
Taibbi Says Tea Party Doing Heavy Lifting for Banks

What separates reporters like Taibbi and Naomi Klein is that they do their reporting on the ground. He interviews Tea Party members. He hangs out in hardware stores and restaurants in small towns. He isn't a theorist or ideologue. He reports. And maybe we should too.

He pointed out that a lot of Tea Party people are frustrated and angry at regulations on a local level and equate it with regulations on the big investment banks.

I've talked to Tea Partiers who own hardware stores and restaurants and they're upset about things like health inspectors and ADA inspectors and these little nuances that they see as being government intrusion, but they conflate that with regulation of these giant banks like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan/Chase and they think it's the same thing. And what they've managed to do is convince all these Americans to campaign for deregulation of these massive companies under the banner of, "let's get the government off our back."

So Virgil over at Ace Hardware is pissed about handicapped access and all kinds of paperwork and thinks that the answer is "deregulation". Virgil doesn't know or understand that "deregulation" means letting Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, and other investment banks get away with wholesale theft because they have bought and neutered the regulators. Virgil doesn't know, unless he reads Matt's (and Yves Smith, Nomi Prins, book, that Goldman Sachs got a "regulation" changed so that they could become a commercial bank and borrow money at zero percent and then re-loan it to the government at 3%.. They got the "regulation" changed by calling up the government on a Sunday night and demanding that they get the change by 7am the next morning. Can Virgil do that? Nope.

Virgil is angry and was convinced to channel his anger towards minorities who bought too much house. How did this happen?

SPITZER: But to come back to the point that you so eloquently describe. The moment the banks got their money, they suddenly persuaded the Tea Party to start rallying for shutting down the government's ability to help anybody else, not a single mortgage person whose house was underwater had a bankruptcy judge sort of to undo the mortgage because the Senate forbade that and the banks lobbied against it. What was going on here?

TAIBBI: Well, again, I just think that there was this enormous sentiment against government intrusion and after Obama got elected and they had the stimulus and the homeowner Affordability Act, ordinary people had not seen the bank bailouts. They didn't actually see that happen. They didn't see the trillions of dollars that went to Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan/Case, but they did see these programs that went to minority homeowners, poor minority homeowners, their next-door neighbors. And when they saw the government bailing out those people, that's when they got angry. And again, they confused the two issues.

Maybe each of us should go into our local stores and do an informal survey of what "regulations" should be changed to "get government off our backs". And did these small business people think that it is OK for these big businesses to rig the game and put small businesses out of business with onerous regulations that the big boys can bribe their way around?

I could use some help in putting together a survey that I could use in my town as I go from business to business. Or is it all pointless?

No votes yet


letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

But perhaps it shouldn't be a survey. See here. You'll get data that's much richer and a much better understanding of what people really think.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

though that's part of it. What's good about Anecdote elicitation and analysis is that it focuses on how the humans generating the anecdotes see their world in terms of their own conceptual frameworks.

Surveys, especially structured ones, impose the frameworks of investigators onto respondents, often in a very deliberate way to elicit biased responses, Remember the Celinda Lake surveys designed to get responses that would persuade progressive "veal pen" organizations that the PO was the right thing to support.

Here are some other related methods.

Submitted by lambert on

The use case for your original link was IIRC the air force, and the goal was to weed out recruits. Probably a focus on "concepts" rather than moral judgment would be appropriate for that? (As opposed to inducing them to yell "Kill! Kill!" to the shrink....)

Surely politics has a somewhat different use case, in that morality must enter in.

The larger point is that narrative is key; "stories." I think that useful political stories have morals, more than concepts. The right knows this...

Submitted by MontanaMaven on

I didn't really mean that I would do a "survey". I have no interest in that. (And, yes, Celinda Lake and her ilk are a huge part of the problem because they are basically propagandists). So I thought that acting more like a reporter might work.

What I like about Taibbi is that he listens to people, all kinds of people, in order to understand what is going on. And he tells their stories. He doesn't have a class bias like David Gergen who actually called him an elitist. They really clashed on a Rolling Stone roundtable. (Taibbi said that Gergen thought he was Matt Bai of the NY Times and couldn't understand why a NYT reporter would say such things). Taibbi: Fuck the business community!

And he does change his mind. A year ago I interviewed him and he was still in the Obama's a good guy but with the wrong people around him school. I replied "I'm not a fan" which I think took Matt by surprise. A year later, he wrote in his book (p.197)

“Obama’s campaign deceptions on health care were both incredibly specific and grossly serial in nature, and are suggestive not of an idealistic politician who was forced to change course once reality set in but of one who spearheaded a comprehensive, intentional, campaign strategy to buy votes with empty promises”

I'm trying to get community radio going, so maybe I'll use that as a conversation opener.

mass's picture
Submitted by mass on

because of course that didn't happen. They may have heard it on FOX news but the reality is Obama's foreclosure program has been an unmitigated failure. Tiabbi is a real mixed bag. He's bought into the notion that entitlements are in crisis, so it's hard for me to take him seriously, though he makes a valid point here about who is doing the lifting for whom.

I think we have to recognize the push for austerity is global and it isn't an accident. The very wealthy are pushing extremely hard to cut government spending on social programs, to keep taxes low, and to continue to deregulate the markets in the face of the failure of deregulation. We really are in a global class war, and we are desperately losing.

Submitted by Hugh on

I agree this is about class warfare, and the principal tactic of the kleptocrats is to keep us fighting each other so we aren't fighting them.

As John Jay Chapman said back in 1900:

As matters now stand in America, we see this condition, —that it is for the immediate interest of the dominant class, namely, the politico-financial class, to keep the people as selfish as possible.

Chapman also said that our ability to influence others comes not from what we say but who we are and the stands we take:

It is impossible to take a stand for what you think is a true theory without thereby becoming an integral factor for good in every man who hears of it. It is impossible to be that factor without taking that stand.

I think this is right. In the past, I have gone round and round with conservatives. At each point, they agree with me, but at the end they revert to their same old positions. If they respect me, it is not so much for my arguments but that I stand behind them and, conservative or not, I stand with them in wanting them to have security in their lives, a good job, house, healthcare, education, and retirement.

votermom's picture
Submitted by votermom on

the principal tactic of the kleptocrats is to keep us fighting each other so we aren't fighting them

Yup. This is in part what prompted my "dreading the primary wars " post. It's pretty clear to us now, but how many will stay clear-headed once the dog whistles and pavlovian bells are being sounded, constantly sounded?

Submitted by libbyliberal on

so says Taibbi. They want their cake and eat it, too. They want to spout their democracy rhetoric and they want to be nurtured by the Wall Street power daddies. And they want credit for not being Republicans and expect that to bring them votes. And guess what? It did.

Sarah Palin is emotionally connecting with some people. Who is emotionally connecting from the Dems? Who has empathy? To be aligned with the status quo is to be anti-empathy. To be aligned with the status quo is to doom human beings to starvation, homelessness, death or chronic illness from lack of adequate health care, death or maiming in wars, torture, joblessness, deranging mental stress, despair. It is to spin statistics and say, well, the increase in hunger is at a slower rate than last year. Say what? Those are the crumbs of accomplishment you offer the America that swept you in to CHANGE the system from oppression and corruption? That is the change we can believe in? We are containing massive hunger? Not shooting to eliminate it, mind you, but containing it. What colossal and obscene bull shit.

Obama uses "bipartisanship" as a spin for obstructionism to real reform. And Team Dems cannot defy the code of cronyism as well as the promise of corporate candy.

So why do Americans accept this limpid, tepid, craven leadership? Because it is better than the leadership of the emotionally misguided?

But the angry but emotionally misguided. These people at least are in touch with justified anger. But as Taibbi explains, it is deflected from the real oppressors because of their colossal whipped up sense of exceptionalism and pathetic identification with the oppressor class that keeps on exploiting them. The tea partiers won't let themselves acknowledge we are all in the same leaking boat. They are in it with the non-small town people, the immigrants, the gays, the uppity women, people of color, the disabled, the homeless, the emotionally ill, etc. They can't abide that apparently. They can't choose to join forces with fellow exploitees. It goes against their communal faux-religion of ego exceptionalism. Their hearts of darkness. They need to trust the authoritarian corporate puppeteers. They are defiant deniers to their reality. They are loyal consumers to their Fox-addled nation.

And who is going to role model courage for them and passion? Voice of the status quo Dems and Dem leadership?

I hope the Green party grows and grows fast. Time for liberals to find their voice and kick the status quo to the curb. I don't want to pray that Obamacare isn't replaced with something even worse. Pulllleeeeeze. That's as good as it gets? No wonder Palin inspires. Look at the black hole of willessness she has as competition.

Time to dump Obama and kick the Dem leadership in the collective ass. Time to scream what we mean a viable future should be.

Submitted by MontanaMaven on

The tea partiers won't let themselves acknowledge we are all in the same leaking boat. They are in it with the non-small town people, the immigrants, the gays, the uppity women, people of color, the disabled, the homeless, the emotionally ill, etc. They can't abide that apparently.

And the Dems are trying to put on their tuxes and gowns and make it to the ballroom with the other fat cats.

Someone that I can't remember said that the 20th century was the century of Freud and with luck, the 21st century would be the century of Jung. From the "me" century to the "we" century. But so far, it's not looking good.

votermom's picture
Submitted by votermom on

People will gravitate to "wrong but strong" over wishy-washy every time.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

mm, re Dems in their tuxes, the cronyism of the rich is a bitch for the rest of us. We are all drowning in their high statistics mean nothing in the way of conscience other end of the binoculars view of the have nots in this country, as the ranks of that group explodes. No skin off their rich noses, seriously. Just worried about trying to win, and the poor schlub progressives have supposedly no where to go.

and "wrong but strong" is exactly what happened with the last election and more Republican wins, votermom. Nicely put. The Dems are wrong but weak. And anyone in Dem party who manages to be right and starts to assert that gets sabotaged by the Obama bipartisanship oxygen-sucking apparatus.

Cronyism is killing us.