I know to some it seems sad that I watch the interreaction between frequently depraved politicians and often deranged bankers, but my Not Guilty plea is based on two counts: first, History & Politics was my degree subject – and the history of politics is, much of the time, the history of bankers; and second, trust me: these two sets of wriggling, slippery eels need watching and catching. Smoked eel is, after all, delicious; but if not caught, they have a terrible bite.
Today’s second session between Janet Yellen and Congress – far too briefly, Catwoman Warren versus Batshit Yellen – would’ve impressed a lot of radicals on the UK Left whose default position vis a vis the US is casually stereotypical. But what it displayed – yet again – is that American legislators ready to oppose the Madness of the Mob are infinitely more gutsy and far better informed than the plonkers on the various UK Commons Select Committees….many of whom are stuffed with foxes talking about security measures around hen coops.
Congress as a totality is probably even more bought than Westminster, but then the bravery shown by the principled is commensurately greater than in Britain. The HSBC whistle-blower Nick Wilson is a speaker unto Power, as is thorn in the Newscorpse side Peter Jukes. But their closeness to the immortal catalyst Percy Verance is extremely rare….and neither of them are legislators. The average American member of what they call the middle class is chock-full of Main Street common sense – and a healthy dollop of civic interest. We may find it risible at times, but middle Americans get behind stuff: they take an interest….they bloody-well turn up.
Many outside the States would argue “Up to but not including foreign policy”, and I would be the first to say that my friends in America have more faith in the State Department’s motives than I do….or indeed, most Europeans. But then, I feel that about the Brit Smuggies who cleave still to the ‘Special’ Relationship, and are prepared to believe all of the outrageous crap put out by State and our Foreign Office in relation to Ukraine, Russia, Hungary, Syria and Greece.
But while, on the Home Front, UK sofa-spuds eschew thoughts about socio-economic amorality in favour of the next Pizza takeaway, pretty much everyone above trailer-trash in the US interrogates what the “authorities” say. George Carlin could never have become the smash-hit, free-thinking American standup he was in Britain. At best, he would’ve been an Islington-cum-Muswell Hill minority metro-taste comic. In Britain, nobody says “My policy on any federal government announcement is that I don’t believe a fuckin’ word of it”. That’s what made Carlin a sorely-missed American hero: but without a mass audience, the best one can hope for in the UK is to be – well, Cameron invented it – “a non-violent extremist”.
Most US advertising is beyond risible in terms of its level of real brand engagement. But the seers who, over the decades, fought against depicting consumers – especially women – as robotic responders to media mallets are the ones we have to admire. Real contrarians like Bill Bernbach, Jerry Della Femina and Jay Chiat produced advertising for Volkswagen, Meow Mix and Apple respectively that displayed the most instinctive understanding of brand identification in advertising history. And they did it an atmosphere of mind-numbing, process-driven redneck corporate clients who saw no difference between real substance in brand personality and auditing how many logo-calls they could cram into thirty seconds.
I suppose what I’m saying is, being a rebel in Britain involves climbing onto a soapbox; doing the same in US business and politics means climbing a mountain in your underwear, using only nostrils as the means of advance.
Back at the contemporary point, I watched a genuinely appalled Senator from Indiana facing Janet Yellen this afternoon (CET) with the reality of untold and completely indefensible greed: that a company based in his State had move 220 jobs to Mexico, when in the previous fiscal that outfit had added to a long history of profitability by returning a profit of $5.8billion. A company employs 220 people and makes nearly six billion bucks, but it still isn’t enough.
And that remains the problem with the gargoyle 3%: nothing is ever enough, and no amount of obscene wealth will ever suffice. They just want more.
This was Yellen’s response:
“So….yes, I agree, in a downturn, people suffer.”
While it may be that for her ilk, nothing is ever enough, that answer to a question of compassion for fellow human beings is homaeopathically inadequate.
Above all, it makes my point: being a communitarian and compassionate naysayer in the United States is tough. Maybe the British Left should study this reality. Who knows, it might grow some balls along the way.
Earlier at The Slog: Monetarists ask why Markets are correcting. It’s obvious why.