Thursday, April 08, 2010


Team Obama is apparently trying to keep its close ties to Robert Rubin a semi-secret -- though it beats the hell out of me why they bother, since everyone in America, across the political spectrum, recognized the pro-banker skew of the administration's thinking:

Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin – who watched his reputation as an economic titan shattered after leaving the Clinton White House – is decidedly out of favor in the nation's capital.

Except one place – the Obama administration.

Behind the scenes, Rubin still wields enormous influence in Barack Obama's Washington, chatting regularly with a legion of former employees who dominate the ranks of the young administration's policy team....

... his team can't afford to be seen taking advice from Rubin....

The long list of Rubin acolytes working for Obama includes National Economic Council Director Larry Summers, Geithner counselor Gene Sperling, Budget Director Peter Orszag, deputy assistant to the president Michael Froman (who worked with Rubin at Treasury and at Citigroup), National Economic Council official Jason Furman, Deputy National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, and Gary Gensler, the head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Summers and many of the other officials also get regular phone calls from Rubin....

What do they think we think? "Oh, gee, it seems as if the administration is incredibly pro-fat cat ... but I don't see all that much of Bob Rubin, so -- despite the vast number of other bankers making all the decisions, and despite the administration's utter failure to hold any fat cat accountable for the financial meltdown --the fact that I don't see Rubin every three hours on my TV must mean Obama's the second coming of FDR"?


This is a problem beyond the influence on policy. I'm convinced it's a big part of what gives right-wing demagogues and the tea party movement -- and even fringe-dwellers on the violent right -- a relatively free pass.

Why do you think we couldn't get swing voters in the center upset about the incivility of the town halls last summer, or the racist rhetoric of some teabaggers, or the recent acts of intimidation against Democratic lawmakers? Why hasn't this seriously tarnished the anti-Obama movement and the politicians and media figures who egg the haters on?

It's because people in the middle as well as on the right think there's an extraordinarily pro-"elitist" skew to this administration. They hate the fact that big firms were bailed out with tax dollars while ordinary people seem to be getting bupkis. The teabaggers' thinking on this is convoluted -- they hate bailouts but love big business -- but in the center, the thinking is fairly sensible: I'm hurting, or I might be hurting soon, so why do my neighbors I get nothing and those people get a bailout with our money?

In an atmosphere like this, teabagger nastiness seems like a rectifying of the balance of power (even though, as you and I can see, it misses the correct target). Washington "doesn't get it." Obama and fellow Democrats "don't get it." Fat cats were bailed out, so anyone who utters loathes the bailer-outers is cut a disproportionate amount of slack.

A bit of real, tangible economic populism -- a genuine bailout-proofing of the financial system, some real change on jobs and mortgages, some arm-twisting on lending by the banks -- would not only be good for the country, it would allow the administration to put challenge the teabaggers as champions of Main Street America. That's not happening. Health care reform isn't doing it. A thumb in Wall Street's eye is what's really needed.

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