When I first heard that someone on CNBC had gone all Howard Beale, my money was on Bob Pisani. But, when I saw that it was Rick Santelli, there were no surprises. If you’re not a CNBC fan, Charles Lemos over at MyDD describes the situation on the Chicago trading floor aptly:
I spent a decade on Wall Street working for Alex. Brown & Sons, Deutsche Banc Securities and Goldman Sachs. I found Wall Street a largely liberal environment with one major exception, the trading floor. In my experience I found traders, who are largely white ethnics -Irish, Italian, Greek, Polish or Slovak among others- and graduates of the Seton Halls, the Boston Colleges, the Notre Dames, the Penn States were the most rabid conservative and foul mouthed people on the planet. Nor could any of them ever get my name right. "My name is Charles, not Chuckie" was something I would repeat whenever I had the misfortune to have to interact with them. Some of these folks made William Buckley appear moderate.
Whatever my own views on traders and their culture, it appears that Rick Santelli is their patron saint. In his five minute rant, Mr. Santelli went on to compare Barack Obama’s America to Castro’s Cuba and to suggest a kind of modern day "Boston Tea Party" – a call for a Chicago Tea Party as an anti-spending revolt. Mr. Santelli’s "I’m mad as hell and I am not going to take it" tirade on CNBC brought cheers and applause on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade not to mention accolades from across the conservative blogs.
I like to watch CNBC because it’s like someone took Spengler’s Decline of the West and made it into a cartoon. You can see the scenery crumbling around them. High priests of the Bush boom like Larry Kudlow still try to pretend that there’s a grand, self-regulating free market in expression which simply can’t purify itself because of meddling bureaucracies, but most CNBCers will all but admit at this point that it’s no more than bug-eyed gambling.
The underlying belief they all seem to share, and acknowledge in various ways, is that the cause of the current meltdown is that Maxine Waters made it easier for people of color to get home loans. When Rep. Michael Capauno confronted Bank CEOs about how his constituents were angry during a House financial services committee hearing, CNBC’s David Faber and Maria Bartiromo followed up on Morning Joe:
SCARBOROUGH: You know what I think might be also difficult for his constituents to figure out?
BRZEZINSKI: What’s that?
SCARBOROUGH: He and Barney Frank and Maxine Waters said —
SCARBOROUGH: — when they were warned in 2002 —
SCARBOROUGH: — and 2003 —
SCARBOROUGH: — about what they were doing with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was going to cause a subprime crisis that would cripple our economy and possibly create an international crisis.
BRZEZINSKI: I —
SCARBOROUGH: I wonder what his constituents would learn if they Googled his name and Fannie Mae in 2002 hearings. That would be fascinating. Because I know Maxine Waters, who was also screaming yesterday, said that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, when they were trying to reform it, quote, "If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it."
SCARBOROUGH: My, my, my.
BRZEZINSKI: Well, I just think it’s interesting how it’s politically correct and maybe even cool now to be shocked and horrified at all the arrogance that we’re seeing, but where was that a few years ago?
SCAROBOROUGH: And the bank crisis that these —
SCARBOROUGH: — people caused themselves.
SCARBOROUGH: Along with greedy bankers.
SCARBOROUGH: Well. Everybody went to the money party, and, again, these very people who were screaming now were the very ones that were screaming when there were those trying to stop this crisis five years ago.
BRZEZINSKI: Yes. All right. Now to more on how our money’s being spent at home.
SCARBOROUGH: Could you connect the dots between Fannie and Freddie and the rest of the industry? Because we always hear how Fannie and Freddie started it. But somehow, that infected the rest of the industry. And by the end, I guess Fannie and Freddie were carrying what — 50, 60 percent of the mortgages in America?
FABER: Well, Fannie — I mean, it’s interesting, because there’s a story that many believe that Fannie and Freddie were responsible for this crisis. But in our story, it actually is Fannie and Freddie’s absence that led to it to a certain extent.
FABER: Nobody ever sat there and said, "We don’t want people to own homes."
SCARBOROUGH: Well, exactly.
FABER: But we get to a certain point in this country — 60, 65 percent, and everything after that? These people — I mean, at the end of the day, we have many people saying this. And [unintelligible], they shouldn’t own homes. Then you’re dealing with people ultimately —
SCARBOROUGH: And now Barney Frank is saying —
BRZEZINSKI: Who cannot pay it.
SCARBOROUGH: — some people should just rent.
BRZEZINSKI: Yeah. That’s right.
SCARBOROUGH: Thanks for telling us now.
MARIA BARTIROMO (anchor of CNBC’s Closing Bell): But, you know, the tape is there of Barney Frank just saying, "Look, expand home ownership, the American dream." You know, and they really didn’t understand how it was being done. They weren’t, you know, delineating subprime versus, you know, prime. So, I mean, they were on the record saying we need to expand it. Congress is totally at fault.
Rick Santelli is just the explosive Id of CNBC, saying what everyone else thinks. Somehow it’s not the pervasive institutional rot, the criminal malfeasance at the highest levels, or the Chairman of the Federal Reserve telling Americans over and over again that housing prices would never go down. They have convinced themselves that the real problem is once again people at the absolute bottom of the economic scale. If they’d only used appropriate "judgment" and lived within their means, we’d all be fine.
Santelli is now being promoted by CNBC as a truth teller, a voice of the (no shit) "silent majority." "Would you join Santelli’s ‘Chicago Tea Party?’" they want to know. With 170,000 respondents, 93% say yes!
I guess it was only a matter of time before a hero emerged.