These are hopeful days. The four horsemen of the establishment look like they are leaving the White House. Peter Orszag, who apparently was the most conservative of them all (and who just lobbied for more tax cuts for the rich), has left his position as head of the Office of Management and Budget. Larry Summers is leaving his position as director of National Economic Council. Rahm Emanuel might be out by October. And Tim Geithner is also rumored to be leaving after the election.
There are hardly four Democrats in the whole country who were more pro-establishment, anti-change, pro-corporate power, pro-Wall Street than those four. I'm being literal. Bob Rubin might break into the top four, maybe Evan Bayh, maybe Harold Ford, Jr. But the four that are leaving the White House are undoubtedly in the top ten most corporate friendly Democrats in the country.
So, that leads to the question of why did Obama pick them in the first place? Why did the guy who promised to change the whole system bring in the guys who are most wedded to the system? Why does Barack Obama love the establishment so much?
This is no longer an academic question. In the words of President Obama, I don't want to look backward, I want to look forward. This is the time for hope. So, all of these guys are leaving and I am perfectly happy to let bygones be bygones. The real question is -- who is going to replace them?
Unfortunately, so far the answers aren't good. Jacob Lew has been nominated to be the head of the OMB. During his Senate hearings he said this about deregulation:
"[T]he problems in the financial industry preceded deregulation ... [I] personally [don't] know the extent to which deregulation drove it, but I don't believe that deregulation was the proximate cause."
That's crazy. Saying deregulation was not the proximate cause of the economic crash is like saying if you jump out of a building gravity will not be the proximate cause of your death. I've had many Republicans on our show that have admitted deregulating the banks so they could take enormous risk was not a good idea. Lew's position is beyond Republican.
Some might think that Lew is motivated to take that position by his former (and possible future) employer, Citigroup. They paid him millions of dollars when he was an executive there, including a $950,000 bonus after Citigroup got bailed out by taxpayer money. But I don't think Lew is driven by personal greed (though I don't know the man, I'm just giving him the benefit of the doubt). I think he is the product of his context. He lives in the Washington/Wall Street bubble. And inside that bubble, everybody gets rich off of deregulation and it makes perfect sense to them.
So, why does Obama keep insisting on hiring within that bubble? Now, we hear that Summers replacement is likely to be a corporate executive because Obama feels he has been criticized for being anti-business. That is unreal. How easy is this guy to manipulate? Or does he want to be manipulated in that direction?
Who is calling Obama anti-business? The same Wall Street guys who robbed us of billions (some would argue trillions) and want to do it again. Why on God's green earth would you continue to listen to those guys?
Yes, they have some lackeys in the establishment press, too. I'm sure Mark Halperin would write a blistering article if Obama dared to pick an actual progressive to fill any of these positions. But my God man, why in the world would you give a damn what Mark Halperin and his DC buddies think?
You're losing the whole American population while trying to cater to these clowns. Get your head out of ... the DC/NY bubble. The rest of the country doesn't think you're too tough on business; they think you haven't done enough to help them -- the middle class.
So, I ask this as an earnest question -- why is Barack Obama obsessed with appeasing the establishment? Was he being completely disingenuous when he ran on change? How could he possibly have thought that Larry Summers or the corporate executive who might replace him would bring us real change?
Look, I ask all of this not to complain or because I am part of the so-called "professional left" but because it matters to the very important decisions he is about to make.
For example, if he picked Howard Dean to replace Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff, we would all know we were going in the right direction. Not because Dean is a panacea, but because it would mean that Obama is getting serious about change and taking on the power establishment.
You know Dean would stand up for the middle class. You know all of the political pundits in DC would hate him. Now, does anyone think Obama has the courage to defy Washington conventional wisdom and appoint Dean? That's what I thought. Even if you love Obama with all of your heart, you know he'd never have the guts to pick Dean. That would make Washington and New York very angry with him. And he hates that. He has to be loved by those guys. They're the ones in his bubble.
I ask all of these questions because I am desperate to figure out how we can get President Obama to deliver on the change he promised so we can finally deliver for the middle class in this country instead of the wealthy and powerful that surround the president in Washington. What makes him tick? How can we get him to fall out of love with the establishment? How can we get him to have the courage to govern like he ran for office -- with passion and conviction to help all of us instead of the Washington power elite?