Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My stupid-sense is tingling

I was trying to figure out what about this was setting off a twinge in the back of my brain, aside from the obvious:
"There is rage at Obama for pushing to raise taxes ("The government wants me to be a slave!" says one hedge-fund analyst)"
That's from an article about how upset the bankers of New York City are to be called nasty names and perhaps punished slightly for turning the economy in to a smoking crater. And God forbid we ask the still super-wealthy to pay 3.6% more in taxes on every dollar they make over $250,000 a year.
The anger masks a deeper suspicion that Obama fundamentally doesn’t respect their place at the table. “I think he doesn’t have an appreciation for how hard it is to build these companies, the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into them,” says a senior executive from a failed Wall Street firm. “It’s just that he has no passion for it. He speaks dispassionately about the whole situation, except when he’s beating up on the Wall Street fat cats.”

The argument that Obama has in fact done a great deal to help Wall Street—to the tune of trillions of dollars—doesn’t have much truck with these critics. “If you really take a look at what Obama is promising, it’s frightening,” says Nicholas Cacciola, a 44-year-old executive at a financial-services firm. “He’s punishing you for doing better. He doesn’t want to have any wealth creation—it’s wealth distribution. Why are you being punished for making a lot of money?” As a Republican corporate lawyer puts it: “It’s the politics of envy, and that’s very dangerous.”
What we're getting at, eventually, is that it's not enough that these people be the masters of the universe, and even today it's not enough that their positions are still essentially secure. We aren't even allowed to complain about it. And that's when I realized what was tingling:
The question recurs, what will satisfy them? Simply this: We must not only let them alone, but we must somehow, convince them that we do let them alone. This, we know by experience, is no easy task. We have been so trying to convince them from the very beginning of our organization, but with no success. In all our platforms and speeches we have constantly protested our purpose to let them alone; but this has had no tendency to convince them. Alike unavailing to convince them, is the fact that they have never detected a man of us in any attempt to disturb them.

These natural, and apparently adequate means all failing, what will convince them? This, and this only: cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly - done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated - we must place ourselves avowedly with them. Senator Douglas' new sedition law must be enacted and enforced, suppressing all declarations that slavery is wrong, whether made in politics, in presses, in pulpits, or in private. We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We must pull down our Free State constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us.
That's Lincoln speaking in 1860 at Cooper Union, and I first read that speech in the aftermath of the 2004 election -- remember that? -- when we on the left were being told that the secret to success was to praise the was, hate the gay, and privatize social security. Digby was where I first read that speech, and it sure resonates today.

Of course, despite his pretensions Obama has not learned the lesson that Lincoln imparted at Cooper Union: these people won't negotiate in good faith -- read that passage above, where the wealthy hedge-fundie says the black President is making him a slave -- so we shouldn't bother to try. These people want to protect their prestige and power before all else, even if it means bringing the country down to do it.

Lincoln had a solution to that, and sadly I don't think that Obama has the stomach to pull something similar off.