Thursday, September 18, 2008

Finger Pointing

There's lots of finger pointing going on as to who should shoulder the blame for the mismanagement of Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Lehman Bros., AIG and other failing finacial institutions. The Obama campaign instinctively faults the policies of George Bush and John McCain for the debacle that has rocked Wall Street this week and last, but their indictment is rich in hypocrisy which I will explain below.

Meanwhile, Jim Wallis of Sojourners tends to agree that there's something wrong with the prevailing ethos in Washington:

In the search for blame, some say greed and some say deregulation. Both are right. The financial collapse of Wall Street is the fiscal consequence of the economic philosophy that now governs America - that markets are always good and government is always bad. But it is also the moral consequence of greed, where private profit prevails over the concept of the common good. The American economy is often rooted in unbridled materialism, a culture that continues to extol greed, a false standard of values that puts short-term profits over societal health, and a distorted calculus that measures human worth by personal income instead of character, integrity, and generosity.

Wallis is right, I think, as far as he goes, but it's not the whole story. If we're looking for villains we should examine the political prostitutes who were in bed with the corporate CEOs throughout the last twenty years. Turning our gaze toward Washington we discover an interesting irony in Senator Obama's indictments of Bush/McCain:

In 2003 George Bush requested that Congress act to reign in Freddie and Fannie, but he was resisted by Barney Frank and other Democrats who insisted there was no crisis and that Bush's request would stifle home loans to poor people and minorities. Congress did nothing, partly, at least, because the financial giants were flooding Capitol Hill with cash through their lobbyists.

Two years later John McCain co-sponsored legislation that would impose regulations on Freddie, Fannie and other mortgage institutions that would force them to do a better job of bookkeeping, make them more accountable and tighten up their lending practices. McCain predicted in 2006 exactly what came to pass these past weeks, but the legislation he endorsed died in committee. The committee was chaired by Democrat senator Christopher Dodd.

The lenders didn't want to be regulated, and they had bought influence in Washington with millions of dollars of campaign contributions. Records show that Senator Dodd ranked first among over 300 recipients of such contributions, receiving over $165,000 from the lobbyists over twenty years. John Kerry was third. Barack Obama, the man who criticizes John McCain for not doing anything to prevent the collapse, managed to be second, having collected over $123,000 from the lobbyists, even though he had only been receiving these emoluments for just three years.

What's more, the former CEOs of both Freddie and Fannie, men who had made millions while their companies hurtled toward collapse, have both served as economic advisors on Obama's campaign team. Whoever Senator Obama has in mind when he promises us change from the old ways of doing business in Washington, he's not thinking of himself. No one is more wedded to cronyism and big dollar politics than is Barack Obama.

Here's John Gibson's report on this sordid tale:

For more see Hot Air.



A couple of years ago we gave out Dreyfus awards here at Viewpoint to people who, like Inspector Dreyfus in the Pink Panther series, seemed to have been driven mad by their profound hatred for Inspector Clouseau, i.e. George Bush.

Maybe we should start giving another award which we could title something like, the Randi Rhodes Award for Despicability, or something. There would be no shortage of material, that's for sure. In addition to all the distortions, sleaze and rumors about Sarah Palin we were treated to over the past two weeks there's lots else.

Here's an example: A professional photographer named Jill Greenberg was hired by The Atlantic to get some pictures of John McCain. She deliberately set him up to make him look as devilish as possible and then bragged about it on her blog. Not only is she unembarrassed by her complete lack of professionalism and ethics, she seems to think that her behavior is somehow noble and important.

Is there something in the water these people drink that makes them this way? Michelle Malkin gives a number of additional examples of the kind of deranged behavior that's come to be so common on the left, and she has more on Jill Greenberg here.


Why People Vote Republican

Jonathan Haidt, who identifies himself as a liberal and an atheist, says many interesting things in an essay at Edge titled What Makes People Vote Republican?, but in the end his discussion leaves unanswered a fundamental question that is implicitly raised in his article.

It's hard to summarize his essay because it covers a lot of ground, but essentially he says that there are five domains of moral experience about which people feel strongly. He labels these harm/care, fairness/reciprocity, ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity. In other words, people have moral concerns that arise out of behaviors which can either harm others or which are somehow unfair, or disloyal, disrespectful, or unchaste.

Liberals, he maintains, are concerned only with the first two of these and are actually disdainful of the last three, whereas most Americans care about all five. Thus liberals are seen by most people in this country as out-of-touch elitists. He urges his fellow liberal Democrats to recover at least the language of the last three.

But herein lies the problem. Morality itself, whether we're talking about "justice, rights, and welfare", the moral sphere of most concern to liberals, or the wider sphere which encompasses, in addition, patriotism to one's country, family, sexuality, etc., is contingent upon there being a personal transcendent moral authority. Without such an authority to obligate us to follow certain prescriptions there is no moral obligation at all. In other words, in order to sound genuinely interested in the moral realm liberals have to acknowledge that the foundation of secular exclusivism upon which they have tried to stand is crumbling under the weight. Without God there is no morality, no good or bad, no right or wrong. There are just things that people do that other people either like or dislike.

This is what conservative people tend to see, or at least intuit, and to which liberals are largely blind. Liberals talk about justice and human rights on the one hand while, often, minimizing the need to ground these in a God who made us in His image and whose property, to use a Lockean term, we are. Their moral pronouncements thus seem to float like balloons in metaphysical air, anchored to nothing.

Haidt seems to recognize this at several points throughout his essay but, being an atheist, he shies away from drawing the proper conclusion. In the end he winds up calling for Democrats to embrace the larger moral vision of conservatives but gives them no real reason to do so other than political expediency. Such a prescription can only be seen as hypocritical by the people he's trying to win over.

He concludes with these words:

If Democrats want to understand what makes people vote Republican, they must first understand the full spectrum of American moral concerns. They should then consider whether they can use more of that spectrum themselves. The Democrats would lose their souls if they ever abandoned their commitment to social justice, but social justice is about getting fair relationships among the parts of the nation. This often divisive struggle among the parts must be balanced by a clear and oft-repeated commitment to guarding the precious coherence of the whole. America lacks the long history, small size, ethnic homogeneity, and soccer mania that holds many other nations together, so our flag, our founding fathers, our military, and our common language take on a moral importance that many liberals find hard to fathom.

Unity is not the great need of the hour, it is the eternal struggle of our immigrant nation. The three ... foundations of ingroup, authority, and purity are powerful tools in that struggle. Until Democrats understand this point, they will be vulnerable to the seductive but false belief that Americans vote for Republicans primarily because they have been duped into doing so.

The article is a little long but worth the time to read.