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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

"The Populist Revolt"

Wake up and smell the populism:

Tom Daschle and the Populist Revolt, by Robert Reich: Tom Daschle's surprise withdrawal today shocked most Washington insiders... So what happened? My guess is that official Washington underestimated the public's pique at what appeared to be the old ways of Washington. Hill staffers tell me that many offices have been inundated with telephone calls, emails, letters and faxes expressing concern (to put it mildly) about Daschle -- not only his failure to pay back taxes but his relationships with major players in the health care industry and rich consulting contracts with the private sector since leaving the Senate, and even the fact that he was given a car and driver by one of them.

What's going on here? Maybe official Washington, much like most of Wall Street, is still not quite getting it.

Typical Americans are hurting very badly right now. They resent people who appear to be living high off a system dominated by insiders with the right connections. They've become increasingly suspicious of the conflicts of interest, cozy relationships, and payoffs that seem to pervade not only official Washington but our biggest banks and corporations. In short, many Americans who have worked hard, saved as much as they can, bought a home, obeyed the law, and paid every cent of taxes that were due are beginning to feel like chumps. Their jobs are disappearing, their savings are disappearing, their homes are worth far less than they thought they were, their tax bills are as high as ever if not higher -- but people at the top seem to be living far different lives in a different universe. They're the executives and traders on Wall Street who have lived like kings for years off a bubble of their own making while ripping off small investors, the financial louts who are now taking hundreds of billions of taxpayer bailout money while awarding themselves huge bonuses and throwing lavish parties, the corporate CEOs who are earning seven figures while laying off thousands of workers, the billionaire hedge-fund and private-equity managers who are paying a marginal tax rate of 15 percent on what they say are capital gains while people who earn a fraction of that are paying a higher rate, and, not the least, the Washington insiders who have served on the Hill or in an administration and then gone on to pocket millions as lobbyists for the same companies they once regulated or subsidized. To the American who's outside the power centers ... the entire system seems rotten. ...

[T]he public wants change, real change, big change. There's no tolerance any longer for the way things used to be done.

The new administration was supposed to bring about real change, not chump change. As much as possible, we need a clean break from the past, and if dropping Daschle helps with that, great -- with all the incrdibly talented people in this country I don't think anyone is indispensable, they only seem that way to the old boys. But in many important areas, a break from the past doesn't seem to be what we are getting.

    Posted by on Tuesday, February 3, 2009 at 01:44 PM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (57)


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