Democracy 1, Wall Street 0

Nice openDemocracy piece by Godfrey Hodgson.

The amount Paulson proposed to disburse to his former colleagues and rivals was bold in its immensity: $700 billion – or more, if that’s what it would take. The work would be undertaken by the treasury department. There would be the lightest supervision, no higher authority to judge whether the rescue was being carried out competently or even honestly. The three-page scheme was wrapped up and popped out over a weekend, to minimise public scrutiny (see Saskia Sassen, “The new new deal”, 23 September 2008).

In retrospect, it could never have worked – for even in the George W Bush administration, it was recognised that such a vast government expenditure would have to pass Congress. True, the government’s placemen expressed the administration’s trademark arrogance and contempt for democracy at this stage (most notably the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, John Boehner: “We don’t need 535 members of Congress adding their best idea. We need to keep it clean, simple, move it through the House and Senate, and get it on the president’s desk.”) But from millions of Americans came a clean, simple response of their own which their elected representatives have found it impossible to ignore: no.

En passant, one of the most worrying things about the coverage of this story is the extent to which most of the TV and radio specialists — like the sing-song Robert Peston of the BBC — have bought into the Wall Street mindset. Watching Peston shaking his head mournfully at the folly of American politicians and warning of the dire cataclysms attendant upon their misguided votes just underlined how far the disease has spread.