Paul Krugman, earlier this month:
And the insistence on offering the same plan over and over again, with only cosmetic changes, is itself deeply disturbing. Does Treasury not realize that all these proposals amount to the same thing? Or does it realize that, but hope that the rest of us won’t notice? That is, are they stupid, or do they think we’re stupid? (Paul Krugman, 2009.03.03, see more recently Galbraith and Krugman again.)
Me, earlier this month, in my own blog:
Prof, it’s a lot worse than that. We don’t exist to them.
Lawrence Summers is so devoid of empathy he lost the presidency of Harvard by insulting the intelligence and competence of more than half the human race. Their fellow senior bankers, the people they meet at the country club, their friends and social circle–these are real to them, and the men more than the women. (And Jewish boys from Long Island who grew up reading history and science fiction and go on to win Nobel prizes in economics definitely don’t exist.) The whole rest of the world just doesn’t register. They are like blocks at the top of the pyramid, proclaiming that they are self-supporting.
I don’t believe these people are in any meaningful sense reachable. It’s just possible that Obama will persuade them to try something different but more likely that change will only come after disaster on the national scale. Remember that nothing has dented the conservative coalition in the Senate: not losing a war, not the collapse of the economy, not the dismal failure of response to Katrina. They are convinced that their personal power trumps reality, and their social circle supports them in this belief. And Geither and Summers seem to be cut from the same cloth. Instead of the rich supporting the poor in hard times, they want the reverse.
I don’t think the latest administration proposal is going to make it through Congress in its present form—both liberals and conservatives have reasons to hate it. That’s the good part. The bad part is that that means that nothing is likely to get done for at least a year, which means at least a year of hard times. Meantime, what do we do? I would like to see some modeling from the pro economic community. Suppose this goes through, suppose the toxic waste is worth 20%, 50%, 80% of its face value–what happens? Suppose nothing is done. What then? Economists? We need personal strategies, too. I’ve already suggested that people stuck with impossible and unfair mortgage payments just squat, demand that the loan-holder produce their papers, and make the banks and local authorities decided how cold-blooded they actually are. But that’s a desperate strategy. What’s the best thing for us, personally, to do, before matters come to that pass? What else can people stuck in an impossible situation do? And, finally, we need political strategies. The Senate, now, is the problem, with its 75% right wing majority. How do we change as many minds as we can, and break that majority? How do we get the states out of the miserly policy-making that’s currently wrecking California?