An blog by a member of the Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi, to explore the nexus between contemplation and resistance. "The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Cognitive Regulatory Capture




While some may think that that Obama is dumb as a bag of hammers for serving the interests of the Wall Street elite, there is another way of viewing the matter. In this view, Obama has his role to play and, frankly, he is playing it brilliantly.

One way to characterize Obama’s political decisions is this: “But if you're willing to risk the entirety of a potentially great presidency on making sure that a handful of already wealthy sociopaths who got rich destroying the global economy are not denied massive taxpayer-funded bonuses to keep them in jobs they've already completely mishandled, despite the fact that many of them took the money and left the job anyhow - if that's you, and you're the new president of the United States with a load of challenges and lots of public good will solidly behind you - well, then, you're dumber than a bag of hammers.” - David Michael Green, “Barack Obama and the Altar of Greed”, March 20, 2009.

The definition of stupidity depends on what the real goal is. If the goal of Barack Obama is to “fix the economy”, meaning to restore it to its previous state before the cascading effects of loss of trust in the subprime mortgage-based securities, then what he is doing makes perfect sense. He is pumping massive amounts of equity into the failed system in order to reinflate the bubble economy and thus restore it to its previous state. Bonuses make sense in this context because they are the primary motivating factors for those who created the bubble economy. He can only be considered stupid if his goal is truly to transform the current banking system. But nothing in his rhetoric or practice indicates that it is – his goal is preservation of the status quo, nothing more, nothing less.

Aiding corporate pirates is no sign of stupidity, but more like his assigned concept of operations. He was elected in one of most successful political advertising campaigns in recent memory, largely paid for with Wall Street money, precisely so that the transfer of wealth to the banking elite could take place under the covers of a pragmatic and moral administration. His popular credit is being spent wisely by Wall Street metrics. It is being used to cover the transfer of hundreds of billions of Treasury dollars from government programs into the coffers of hedge fund managers and investment bankers. So far Wall Street is extremely pleased with his efforts on their behalf – hardly evidence of stupidity.

David Michael Green assumes that eventually public outrage will undermine Obama’s efforts to ensure the smooth transfer of wealth to the ruling elite, but he is probably mistaken in this regard. The current “outrage” over AIG bonuses is a classic diversionary maneuver. It focuses public interest on a tiny 165 million in bonuses while the 200 billion dollar transfer takes place without objection. After some ritual legislation, the “outrage” over bonuses will be vindicated and the massive transfer can take place unnoticed.

To invoke Obama’s “independent base of support” as a possible counterweight to his Wall Street sponsorship is to confuse cause and effect. The advertising campaign had a deep understanding of the dissatisfaction of the public and used that to garner mass public support. The purpose of his campaign was to divert social unrest into safe channels that would not challenge Wall Street interests. The “independent base of support” is a measure of marketing effectiveness. It in no way represents an alternative to the Wall Street base, but is the result of the brilliant marketing made possible by that support.

Green is on target in his concept of “mind capture”: “Just as in Orwell's ‘1984’, the most powerful effect you can have on people is not by physically limiting their behavior, per se, but instead by getting them to limit themselves in terms of the concepts they are even capable of entertaining.” - David Michael Green, “Barack Obama and the Altar of Greed”, March 20, 2009.

Obama is no more capable of entertaining an alternative to the present financial system than a modern teenager can imagine reading a book for the sheer pleasure of the ideas to be found in it. Our creative notions have been catastrophically constrained and our politicians can no longer imagine a world not controlled by current financial powers. Obama has a decisive motivation to sell out those who voted for him – selling them out will motivate the stock market like nothing else.

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