David Sirota on the Plan

This passage written by David Sirota, which can be found on the Blog for Our Future website, deserves a post of its own:

The facts of this bailout are very clear. Though there were scores of solid alternatives that took cues from our own history and that of industrialized countries like Sweden, our Congress is rushing full-bore towards handing 5 percent of our economy to speculators, no strings attached. Good progressives like Paul Krugman openly admit that "to this day [the bailout proponents] have never been able to explain clearly why buying up bad mortgage assets at market prices will solve the credit crunch" — and yet leading voices like Krugman have used their platforms not to aggressively advocate for a real solution, but to instead play armchair political strategist, telling us that this is the best we can get from the current Congress.

The only problem to be found here sits in the belief that Krugman is a "good progressive."My reasons:

First of all, I interpret the term "good progressive" as entailing that the person in question is a committed "progressive" — a left-leaning reformist — who accepts as binding a fundamental principle of America's rigged political game: The political losers of this game must accept as legitimate the rewards they receive from their political activities. They must accept these results as legitimate if they wish to affirm the democratic mechanism as it now exists in the United States. In other words, progressives must believe the losers of the political game must consent to be governed by the winners if the American polity is to be a democracy. The upshot: Progressives can only be conformists, albeit conformists with a guilty conscience when they are also good (strongly committed to a progressive politics). Their guilt depends upon the conformist nature of contemporary progressive politics and its lowly place in America's political culture. That is, this guilt supposes progressives know or ought to know that their practical efforts are doomed to fail given the nature of the American polity.

Second, as a Clintonista of long- and good-standing, Krugman is neither a good progressive nor even a progressive! He thus has no reason whatsoever to feel guilty about betraying his progressive politics, for he is not a progressive in any non-trivial meaning of the word.

So, Sirota should not be surprised to find someone like Krugman going with the flow. If conformism is part of the deal for progressives, the conformism problems does not exist at all for a centrist like Krugman.

Update 1 (10.3.2008)

Subsequently, Sirota argues that

Many of these people [economists and business journalists] say this bailout could actually make this situation far worse, and many of them also have terrific, commonsense, and historically proven ideas about how to structure an economic rescue package…. Indeed, most bailout proponents…acknowledge this plan will likely be unsuccessful and that the public advocates for it haven't explained how it will work. Yet, many of those proponents — especially those in Congress — say they support it anyway because of the ultimate ideology of the truly psychotic: Namely, that somebody has to do something, no matter what that something is. They are pulling the classic move we saw during the lead-up to the Iraq War — officially supporting it, but also giving speeches of skepticism so they can cover their asses with "I told you so" haughtiness in the future (and please, don't even try to justify this bill as a respectable bargain — spending 5 percent of our entire economy — $700 billion — in exchange for a few small but admirable renewable energy tax credits is not a good deal… I've heard of thinking minimally, but that's thinking microscopically).

Sirota rightly identifies a polity which habitually engages in bezerk law-making such as this a "Crazyocracy." It can be judged mad because those who lead it are blind to the causes and consequences of their actions. Their blindness may even issue from a willful act — namely, from a wish to lack the awareness they seemingly need as worldly actors. Because they are blind in this way they are incapable of making defensible judgments about the world they find themselves within. They seemingly only act out the scripts they have adopted as their own.

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