Thursday, October 20, 2011

Let Them Eat Keller

Let Them Eat Keller


By Robert Scheer


October 20, 2011


Funny, he doesn't look like Marie Antoinette. But when

former New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller asks

his readers if they are "bored by the soggy sleep-ins

and warmed-over anarchism of Occupy Wall Street," it

displays the arrogance of disoriented royal privilege.


Perhaps his contempt for anti-corporate protesters was

honed by the example of his father, once the chairman

of Chevron. In any case, it is revealing, given the

cheerleading support that the Times gave to the radical

deregulation of Wall Street that occurred when Keller

was the managing editor of the newspaper.


As the Times reported on its news pages in 1998,

heralding the merger that created Citigroup as the

world's largest financial conglomerate: "In a single

day, with a bold merger, pending legislation in

Congress to sweep away Depression-era restrictions on

the financial services industry has been given a

sudden, and unexpected, new chance of passage."


The report all too breathlessly continued, "Indeed,

within 24 hours of the deal's announcement, lobbyists

for insurers, banks and Wall Street firms were huddling

with Congressional banking committee staff members to

fine-tune a measure that would update the 1933 Glass-

Steagall Act separating commercial banking from Wall

Street and insurance. ."


The "fine-tuned" law, combined with another one

similarly drafted by congressional Republicans and also

signed by Democratic President Bill Clinton, exempted

trading in collateralized debt obligations and credit

default swaps from government regulation. That was the

very action that enabled the banking crisis that has

brought the nation's economy to its knees and

protesters to Wall Street. Citigroup, where Clinton's

treasury secretary and deregulation advocate Robert

Rubin ended up as chairman, specialized in what proved

to be toxic mortgage-backed securities and had to be

bailed out with massive taxpayer credits.


One would think that the failure of The New York Times

to cover this sorry tale as it was unfolding would

leave Keller with some humble understanding of why

protesters, undeterred by rain, should be celebrated

rather than scorned. But such accountability has hardly

been a hallmark of those in the media or in business

and political circles, who with few exceptions got it so wrong.


Just how wrong was laid out in the Tuesday night

Republican debate by Ron Paul, whose consistent

libertarian critique has been refreshing throughout the

banking meltdown. Other presidential candidates

stumbled over their earlier support of the TARP banking

bailout, and one of them, Herman Cain, responding to a

question about Occupy Wall Street, stuck by his

statement "don't blame Wall Street, don't blame the big

banks, if you don't have a job, you're not rich, blame yourself."


Paul took him on with a clarity that plainly endorsed

the main point of the Wall Street demonstrators: "Well,

I think that Mr. Cain has blamed the victims." Paul

pointed to the true culprits, those on Wall Street and

their partners in crime in the government and the

Federal Reserve, who bailed out the banks but not the

people they victimized.


"The bailouts came from both parties," Paul observed,

adding, "Guess who they bailed out? The big

corporations, the people who were ripping off the

people in the derivatives market. . But who got stuck?

The middle class got stuck . they lost their jobs, and

they lost their houses.  If you had to give money out,

you should have given it to the people who were losing

it in their mortgages, not to the banks."


It was heartening that many in the Republican crowd

cheered Paul's statement, as it was earlier this week

when the respected Quinnipiac poll found that "By a

67-23 percent margin, New York City voters agree with

the views of the Wall Street protesters." Despite the

inconvenience of the protests to New Yorkers, the poll

showed that by a 72-24 percent margin voters of that

city say the protesters should be allowed to stay at

their Wall Street location "as long as they wish."


That's an admirable sentiment on the part of New

Yorkers, which was echoed by Times readers who directed

a torrent of criticism at Keller. He pointed out on his

blog that they took issue with what he referred to as

"my slightly snarky reference to Occupy Wall Street.

Okay, maybe not `slightly.' " He now claims he didn't

intend to show contempt for the protesters, but that is

exactly what he did.



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