Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Bad Guys and Bad Banks

My son is a huge fan of the president. Indeed, Obama is incredibly popular among the pre-K set here in Berkeley. Obama has magical powers, and he's bad news for bad guys. This is one of the things you learn from your parents if you grow up in Berkeley.

Because Noah is five, and also adorable, he gets a pass from me: he's allowed to believe in Obama, Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, all that stuff.

But I wish that everybody over the age of consent would get real. I know that the election of Obama has provided a much-needed opportunity for middle-class white people to feel good about their own tolerant open-mindedness, and I know that the new meaning of "hope" is "I don't want to think about it," but I must now declare the post-inauguration grace period over.

For a while I felt ambivalent about the Obama election. I could understand its meaningfulness for many and I was happy for people's happiness and I wanted to affirm what I thought and still think are mostly benevolent aspirations on the part of the electorate. But ambivalence also ends, and I've been really almost too irritated and dispirited to write anything here--I can feel nothing now but antipathy for a president who stays silent while our immaculate ally in Israel massacres, starves and humiliates the people of Gaza.

It's a pretty lonely place, over here with the handful of haters, revolted by the crypto-Reaganite rhetoric of American exceptionalism and personal responsibility that apparently impressed people in his inauguration speech. As it seems to me, the true meaning of Obama's claims that the financial crisis was caused by people living beyond their means, or refusing to make "tough choices," is that people must now prepare to hand their wages over to the banks and take whatever shit jobs they can find.

I feel no special relief about Obama's economic stimulus package with its capitulation to the ideology of "tax breaks." The infrastructure programs that people think the bill contained, and which have provoked absurd comparisons with FDR, amount to pennies, really, less than $100 billion, all told, most of which will no doubt be sucked up by the creative accounting of contractors. I mean, there is $32 billion for clean energy: a figure that is guaranteed to make absolutely no difference for climate change. Looked at beside the $2-4 trillion that they're getting ready to dump into the banking system, and in light of the rate at which the economy is hemorraghing jobs, this is simply laughable.

But I am supposed to feel calmed by Obama's performance of "anger" last week after the news (which is no news) about banking bonuses finally percolated into the mainstream media. Sitting beside one of the engineers of the original bank giveaway in the person of his Treasury Secretary, Obama tells us he's going to have a serious "talk" with the bankers. A talk! About responsibility! Those bad bankers! They need a "bad" bank!

I do admit that I am intrigued by the resonances of the term "bad bank." I am reminded of the wide variety of pre-capitalist responses to crises of accumulation--many of them proactive--from the burying of excess precious metals (in order to preserve the value of holdings) to the Jewish practice of declaring a Jubilee year every fifty years, in which all debts were forgiven, all slaves freed, and all contracts anulled.

One wants, however, not merely to return the system to homeostasis but to end it once and for all. I propose, therefore, that we come up with our own proposal for a "bad" bank or sacrificial economy whereby we might zero out any and all debts, annul contracts we find injurious, print and distribute poetic monies of all flavors and colors, seize the means of production, throw parties, get divorced and/or married many times in the same day, make puppets, hold free concerts, etc. The purpose of this "bad bank" will be to lose money rather than make it. I nominate Anne Boyer for CEO.


odalisqued said...

I will gladly take the position if that means one of our investments can be an aviary of molotov cockatiels at the current site of the poetry foundation.

I'm perfect at losing money.

BB said...

I'm in your handful. Thank you Jasper.

the amazing verification word happens to be VENTRING. It's going to be fucking awesome to type it.

Joseph said...

Sadly (because I was one of those numbers of the electorate who held "benevolent aspirations") I'm down with all of this.

Nick Valvo said...

All I have to say is said better than I can say it in chapter 25 of Leviticus.


Hope is as hollow as fear.