David Sanger in the New York Times writes about the possibility that our banking system is so broken that we may need to nationalize the banks. And in the process, he almost accidentally points out one of the grand ironies of our equally broken political discourse:
Nationalization could pull the banks out of that dive, at least temporarily, as the government injected capital, hired new managers and ordered a restart to lending. But some Republicans who bit their tongues when President George W. Bush ordered huge interventions in the market would charge that Mr. Obama was steering America toward socialism.
Nationalization, said Charles Geisst, a financial historian at Manhattan College "is just not a term in the American vocabulary."
"We think of it," he continued, "as something foreigners do to us, not something we do."
As an unrepentant capitalist with a masters’ degree in business whose ideas on economics really aren’t all that far from those of my father, a Rockafeller Republican in the sixties, I am laughing this morning. Because if I had a nickel for every time someone referred to me as a "far left extremist" or a "liberal loon," my dogs would be fixed for poodle pate for life.
The point is, our "elites" — those who, as Jay Rosen notes, determine the "sphere of legitimate controversy," place the views of people like me on the very edge (if we’re considered within the sphere at all, and frequently we aren’t). And everything to the "left" of that is considered in the "sphere of deviance," which means that an enormous swath of ideas and human history, and most certainly "socialism," has been purged from realm of legitimate contemplation:
Anyone whose views lie within the sphere of deviance—as defined by journalists—will experience the press as an opponent in the struggle for recognition. If you don’t think separation of church and state is such a good idea; if you do think a single payer system is the way to go; if you dissent from the “lockstep behavior of both major American political parties when it comes to Israel” (Glenn Greenwald) chances are you will never find your views reflected in the news. It’s not that there’s a one-sided debate; there’s no debate.
Which brings us to Bill Kristol’s last column, printed today in the selfsame pages of the New York Times, to which I say there aren’t enough pies in the world for an appropriate response:
Conservatives have been right more often than not — and more often than liberals — about most of the important issues of the day: about Communism and jihadism, crime and welfare, education and the family. Conservative policies have on the whole worked — insofar as any set of policies can be said to “work” in the real world. Conservatives of the Reagan-Bush-Gingrich-Bush years have a fair amount to be proud of.
He then goes on to do what all conservatives do when they don’t know where to go — fondle Reagan’s corpse. This is irrational. No thinking person could look at our current maladies and not see their roots in Reagan’s contempt for government and unchecked fetish for deregulation. But as Attaturk notes, this is the same William Kristol, son of Irving Kristol, who yesterday told the son of Mike Wallace that "Democrats are the party of hereditary power." These people have been allowed to say virtually anything, no matter how stupid and obviously wrong, completely unchecked and without consequence for decades. They have demonized the word "liberal" and all it stands for, despite the fact that on the major issues of the day (the economy, healthcare, the war) the public firmly cast their ballots for the "liberal" position in November.
So what does this mean? Well, events have compelled us to consider a course of action that is outside the realm of acceptable debate. Even those Pete Peterson jokers, whose obsessive desire to privatize social security make you want to roll your eyes and shout "get a room," acknowledge that “the case for full nationalization is far stronger now than it was a few months ago." It’s not a new idea — people like Dean Baker, Ian Welsh and a host of others have been saying it for a while.
But as Krugman notes, we will probably first have a host of expensive, unsuccessful "new voodoo" schemes because "Washington remains deathly afraid of the N-word."
Thanks to the collective wankery of those who dictate what is and isn’t fit for discussion, we now have no way to reasonably contemplate a measure that could prevent our further economic slide. We’ll probably throw a bunch of money at things that won’t work before reality forces us to accept a course of action we can’t talk about.
Kristol may be gone from the pages of the Times, but his legacy of stupid will live on at — wait for it — the Washington Post. He will remain as one of the high priests of our Orwellian discourse, he will continue to be celebrated and validated as an elite thinker, and the cognitive dissonance between what we’re allowed to think and what we’re going to have to do will continue unabated.