Beware wolves dressed in moderates’ clothing.
Especially the “fresh thinking” as gussied up by the group calling itself “Third Way,” which tries to put a genteel, highbrow facade on its advocacy for increasing austerity and financial insecurity for the majority of Americans.
Digging beneath the sunny platitudes about promoting growth, you will find that the organization is chock full of high finance types and their political servants, so it’s no surprise that they’re more interested in rethinking what they like to belittle as entitlements and boosting too big-to fail banks than they are in raising questions about the financial system.
And they’re not laying down these proposals just to hear themselves talk.
These people have real power to set the terms of the debate and strongly influence decision-makers.
The most obvious example is President Obama’s new chief of staff, Bill Daley, the former top official of J.P. Morgan who sits on Third Way’s board.
He’s just the latest in a string of bad appointments the president has made to oversee the nation's economy, from Tim Geithner and Larry Summers to Gene Sperling, the Goldman-Sachs alum who fought for financial deregulation in the Clinton White House, who was recently appointed to replace Summers on the Council of Economic Advisers. Then there's Jeffrey Immelt, GE’s CEO the outsourcing, plant-shutting ace who Obama put in charge of reducing the unemployment rate.
For his part, Daley seems to have earned his job as the president’s chief adviser by fighting against financial reform, especially from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The mainstream media has worked hard to foster the idea of centrism, with Third Way as a prime proponent of “moderate ideas.”
But there’s nothing moderate about the continuing unhealthy influence of corporate America over our political process, fostering policies that are turning us into something more like a Third World country polarized between haves and have nots than the land of opportunity for all.
There’s nothing moderate about the fear-driven wealth and power grab, otherwise known as the federal bailout, that entrenched the wealth built for a select few in the years of the bubble economy, while it increased economic insecurity for the rest of us. As Neil Barofsky, TARP’s inspector-general, pointed out in his most recent report, it also entrenched the political and financial clout of “too big to fail” financial institutions.
There’s nothing moderate about the austerity agenda of shared sacrifice which consists of cuts to Social Security, Medicare and education.
There’s nothing moderate about the attack on the economic system that was built in the wake of the Great Depression and World War II, which combined the power of the free market with a system of regulation and safety nets. That attack, with its intellectual underpinnings in the work of the economist Milton Friedman, was launched in the 1980s and has been carried forward by politicians of both parties.
Meanwhile, two of the most impassioned politicians standing up to that attack, from opposite ends of the spectrum, would probably be characterized by the mainstream media as extremist: Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent socialist from Vermont, and Rep. Ron Paul, the libertarian from Texas. Those two men, who would probably find much to disagree on, worked together to pass a bill to audit the highly secretive activities of the Federal Reserve during the bailout.
You may or may not agree with Sanders or Paul either, but they aren’t afraid to challenge a status quo which props up the powerful while undermining the powerless.
You can scour Third Way’s materials and you won’t find anything that challenges the risky practices of financial institutions that wrecked our economy. You won’t find anything that challenges the power equation that props up the status quo. Behind its rhetoric of moderation, Third Way knows which side it’s on.