Tuesday’s announcement of the Obama economic team’s plans to rescue the financial industry was met by indifference or hostility from the “masters of the universe” on Wall Street. Meanwhile, the stimulus plan – meant to address the decline of production and employment in the real economy – stumbled through the legislative chambers, picked apart by the partisans of greed and aloofness and leaving little but crumbs for a population starved for jobs and an assured future.
Those expecting a miraculous turn around – and they were many, mesmerized by the energy of the Obama transition – were brought back to earth. There is still a monstrous economic catastrophe – some now are saying worse than The Great Depression. There is still an uneven class struggle with one side fighting a desperate slash and burn campaign and the other side frozen with trust and patience. And there is still a poverty of boldness, fresh thinking, and a commitment to social justice.
Could it be otherwise?
Trapped into a box of conventional thinking, the economic policy team around Obama understands that they cannot simply assume the huge pile of garbage accumulated by an irresponsible financial sector without encouraging a return of the behavior that heaped this unknown and undesired mass of unredeemable debt upon the economy. They recognize that socializing this financial excrement would be politically suicidal. But nothing short of cleaning up the financial backyard will please the lords of capitalism.
Thus, Volker, Summers, Geithner et al – stumble along, offering Hoover-esque statements of confidence and pumping new resources into the tired policies of the Bush administration. Change? Where?
Yet lurking in the shadows is a fresh, but unspeakable solution: Nationalize the Banks! Already the capitalization of former financial giants like Bank of America and Citigroup amounts to around half of the public funds thrown at the feet of their discredited, but shameless managers. How much more must we give them? Sanity cries out for, at least, a discussion of this option.
If the labor movement will not speak and press this option, who will? If the left and progressive movement will not come together around this solution, who will?
Time is running short.