Confused, misdirected populist rage threatens Obama from all sides! And there's really nothing he can do! Well, there's one thing he could do.
People are angry! So mad! They're mad at AIG, for taking all the government's money, and then giving out bonuses to the idiots at AIG who made all the mistakes that led to them needing to take so much government money. And all the Obama people can do is go on TV and say "there's nothing we can do!" Which just makes people even angrier!
There is a rich history of inarticulate anti-elite rage in this country, and an even richer and scarier history of radicals and charlatans tapping into that rage for their own nefarious political purposes.
There is the populism of CNBC, where rich television personalities and commodities traders all consider themselves to be, you know, "everybody." This is the world where the elites simultaneously consider themselves to be both common men and the "winners" enraged at having to subsidize the "losers." They are actually not worth complaining about, too much, because in its current form CNBC exists mostly as a sad sideshow, which is still not quite just punishment for its crimes during The Long Bubble, but let's keep in mind that no one without money takes CNBC seriously and nowadays no one has money, anymore.
Still, their populist rage toward Obama (with "CNBC" now representing basically the entire moneyed, financially literate class) is incoherent: Obama is handing money hand-over-fist to your failing institutions, and asking only marginal concessions in return. If he were to let them fail, as other populists might have it, you'd certainly be a bit put out.
But it's on Fox where the real attempts at articulation and co-option of anti-federal government populism are happening. Glenn Beck feels your pain and reminds you that you're not alone! Then he spends an hour stoking white rage at the liberals who marginalize real Americans, or whatever.
But when people like Mike Huckabee claim Barack Obama's bank bailout plan is the sort of thing Lenin and Stalin would love, you gotta wonder what they're even attempting to accomplish. Right-wing economic populism works best when its directed at foreigners and the other. You know, Pat Buchanan raving about the Mexicans and the Japanese. When you start encouraging people to get pissed off at bankers you're just leaving the door open for people like Bill Wharton, the editor of Socialist Magazine. Billy has a very entertaining editorial in the Washington Post yesterday about how we should be all be so lucky to have a real socialist president.
Socialists support nationalization and see it as a means of creating a banking system that acts like a highly regulated public utility. The banks would then cease to be sinkholes for public funds or financial versions of casinos and would become essential to reenergizing productive sectors of the economy.
The same holds true for health care. A national health insurance system as embodied in the single-payer health plan reintroduced in legislation this year by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), makes perfect sense to us. That bill would provide comprehensive coverage, offer a full range of choice of doctors and services and eliminate the primary cause of personal bankruptcy — health-care bills.
See? Doesn't that all sound so nice? Doesn't that sound like the best answer to right-wing pundits' sputtering rage at Wall Street bonuses and how the Obamas don't have a plan to bail out main street?
So if Obama wants to head off this supposed populist insurrection, he should probably seize all the banks.