As Larry Summers Gently Sleeps: Will Obama Ever Turn Against Plutocracy?

OK, so now there’s a kind of polite but increasingly intense conversation between the progressives who want Obama to pull on his Che Guevara T-shirt and actually wage class warfare (I’m one), and the other progressives who say, nope, he can’t do everything at once and dontcha know this guy is a pragmatist, not a revolutionary.

I think Bill Greider got it right in his Nation piece yesterday—“Obama and the Big Dogs”—in calling this moment a pivotal one for testing Obama’s commitment to public morality:

The financial crisis poses the first great moral dilemma of the Obama presidency. Sometime in the next few months, he will be compelled to choose between his technocratic inclinations—rescuing certain financial institutions deemed “too big to fail”—and the obvious moral wrongness of his policy of rewarding the very players who caused our national disaster.

Obama will also lose the confidence of a whole lotta folks—not just us campanero types—if he doesn’t stop letting himself get pushed around by Big Capital. They’re now openly giving him grief on every front—health care, taxes, energy. They take his money (ok, our money), then push him around. And it’s not just the zombie banks, using bailout money to hire throngs of lobbyists to write their own ticket.

Take the Chrysler mess. This week’s hot business story, in case you missed it, is about bankers and hedge funds—again including some bailout beneficiaries—wanting to pull Chrysler over the brink into a bankruptcy that would be catastrophic for workers and communities across a huge swath of the country. Why were they demanding bankruptcy? Because their bonds would be fully repaid, whereas what the White House has been trying to do is save the company by getting all parties to share some sacrifice.

Why didn’t Obama or Geithner or somebody in the White House just blow the whistle on the greedhead bondholders? It would have been so easy to do: some fat hedge fund pig in Greenwich, CT, demanding 100% even though it means extreme agony for working families in places like Toledo and St. Louis.

But here is the pièce de résistance: those photos of Larry Summers snoring through yesterday’s meeting between the POTUS and the credit card chiefs!!


Wow, talk about photo ops gone bad! Larry can’t keep his eyes open for 30 frickin minutes while his President speaks for the cameras about the need for the banks to play fair and not pick the pockets of cardholders through outrageous new penalties and fees and interest rates.

Did Larry sleep through meetings at his hedge fund, I wonder? (The one that paid him a cool $5 million over the past few years.) Did he sleep through meetings back in the Clinton years when he was busy deregulating financial markets and helping to launch the explosive growth of the FIRE sector?

Hell no. But Summers feels free to sleep in a meeting whose subject is relief from predatory practices for everyday Americans. Talk about the picture that’s worth a thousand words!

Mr. President, you can’t afford sycophants and straddlers like Summers and Geithner. Get rid of them. Save your administration. Take the moral high ground. And back the banking bullies and credit-card bloodsuckers into a corner now, while you still have the chance.