Does anyone remember when the liberal intellectuals decried populism coming from the likes of Glenn Beck and other conservatives that was aimed at the direction the country is going under the leadership of President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress?
Throughout 2009, that so-called "bottom-barrel demagogy," as Troy Patterson called it in an post for Slate one year ago, was the focus of much consternation from the intellectual class that resides in the Northeastern U.S. corridor. One example was a critique of the Rick Santelli call that inspired the Tea Party movement, which John Dickerson called "impassioned, scattershot, and ultimately clownish" in a post for Slate back in February 2009.
Apparently it is OK to cry foul on so-called populist rants when the mouthpieces tend to be right-of-center. But now, with Congress debating financial regulation, this sort of above-the-fray approach has gone by the wayside, at least for Slate.com. On Slate's Political Gabfest podcast for April 22, moderator John Dickerson asked his panel consisting of Slate editor David Plotz and Slate senior editor Emily Bazelon, if Wall Street banks had a responsibility to self-regulate and do what's right as opposed to solely relying on legislation to set the boundaries. That inspired an "impassioned" populist response from Plotz.
"Can I spin this question in an entirely different way -- which is, I don't really care what Wall Street banks have to say because I'm not a politician," Plotz said. "I don't take a lot of donations from them. I think it is appalling and shocking that neither party, either President Obama who wants real financial reform or the Republicans who ought to as well have stood up and taken the reasonable American position, which is the behavior of Wall Street, is absolutely disgusting."
But Plotz took it a step further than Santelli or Beck ever have and suggested actual means to express outrage - hopefully metaphorically, but it isn't clear. He cited an April 9 story from ProPublica that contended a hedge fund called Magnetar prolonged the housing bubble and stories from Michael Lewis' much-ballyhooed book, "The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine" as the sources of this outrage.
"And we shouldn't talk to them, try to persuade them," he continued. "We should burn them down. We should go after them with pitchforks, knives, guns, clubs we find, mace - anything, because it's appalling. You only need to read the story that ProPublica did about the hedge fund Magnetar and what they did or Michael Lewis' ‘The Big Short' or these stories about Goldman to realize these guys are corrupt."
Plotz expressed frustration that Wall Street has managed to command a lot of America's "intellectual energy" and no one seems to care.
"They're using -- there's way too much American intellectual energy going into creating essentially gambling instruments which have nothing to do with improving the efficiency of the American economy. And like to go at it, just tooth and nail and not to give a damn about what Wall Street says and just populist fury. There's so little populist fury. The behavior is disgusting."