Obama Camp Food Fight: “Populists” v. “the Street” Fighters

Arianna Huffington appears to confirm here what I blogged on yesterday – that the recent “outrage” that the President is all choked up about might just have been contrived by the “populist” camp in the Administration (i.e., Axelrod) as a way to put pressure on Geithner and Summers who represent Wall Street and tried to pooh pooh the AIG bonus issue, if not cover it up altogether.

Of course, what Obama loyalist Huffington is a little vague on is the exact content of an economic alternative if the populists were to prevail. About that she is clueless. If she had the courage she would at least endorse the approach of left liberal economist Jamie Galbraith who wrote a piece in the Washington Monthly that is worth considering.

Galbraith’s key point is that if this crisis is as serious as that of the 1930s it would be well for us to keep in mind that only a world war solved the fundamental economic problems. Since Galbraith is not for war as a way out – whew – he proposes a proressive alternative in the form of massive infrastructure spending.

Not a bad way to put the problem but what he leaves out is political reality. A militant and confident new labor movement provided the political pressure that led to those reforms that the New Deal did put in place prior to the war and of course the war itself provided the kind of political opportunity to restructure the economy in significant ways (including coopting that same militant labor movement as documented so ably by historian Nelson Lichtenstein in his Labor’s War at Home).

No sign of such a labor movement today, unfortunately, and no sign that liberals like Galbraith or populists like Huffington or Axelrod really understand the need for such a political force. Axelrod seems to think he just needs ACORN bus tours gawking at big houses to push against Wall Street. Ha.

1 Comment


  1. Yep, in a nutshell there is not even a left liberal bloc to be co-opted or bought-off. If this be the great depression Mark II the elites are in much better shape this time around.

    It does raise the question, however, of where they are going to go from here? Not even Krugman thinks we get back to the way it was circa 2006-2007. I suppose they can do the Japan and muddle through for 10-15 years. But then the Japanese were muddling through during a global boom.

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