David Brooks writes about a new book about the Fannie Mae scandal of recent years. For the record, the screw ups at Fannie Mae have cost taxpayers (more precisely future taxpayers, as we are paying for this crisis with debt) over $150 billion so far. This dwarfs the ENRON scandal.
The new book is Reckless Endangerment by NYT writer Gretchen Morgenson and financial analyst Joshua Rosner. They explain exactly how it is that taxpayers were essentially defrauded and the economy was (in part) destroyed by people who broke no laws. Worst of all, this was done by the leadership class of the country. Brooks writes:
Morgenson and Rosner write with barely suppressed rage, as if great crimes are being committed. But there are no crimes. This is how Washington works. Only two of the characters in this tale come off as egregiously immoral. Johnson made $100 million while supposedly helping the poor. Representative Barney Frank, whose partner at the time worked for Fannie, was arrogantly dismissive when anybody raised doubts about the stability of the whole arrangement.And that is the problem with the nation now, the so-called "reputable figures" are raping and pillaging the country, and they are doing it legally because they control the government. Almost the entire leadership class of the country, and everyone who actually counts, are nothing more than pond scum. They have hollowed out the nation for their own profit, and to Hell with the rest of us.
Most of the people were simply doing what reputable figures do in service to a supposedly good cause. Johnson roped in some of the most respected establishment names: Bill Daley, Tom Donilon, Joseph Stiglitz, Dianne Feinstein, Kit Bond, Franklin Raines, Larry Summers, Robert Zoellick, Ken Starr and so on. [emphasis added]
It has sent the message that we have hit the moment of demosclerosis. Washington is home to a vertiginous tangle of industry associations, activist groups, think tanks and communications shops. These forces have overwhelmed the government that was originally conceived by the founders.I just have to wonder why Brooks considers Michele Bachmann (and presumably all those Tea Partiers) more pungent and colorful than the people who have looted a great nation for their own greedy gluttonous ways? But that's just another part of the problem: most of the so-called "media watchdogs" are nothing more than lapdog apologists for the scummiest people alive. It's how they got their own 30 pieces of silver.
The final message is that members of the leadership class have done nothing to police themselves. The Wall Street-Industry-Regulator-Lobbyist tangle is even more deeply enmeshed.
People may not like Michele Bachmann, but when they finish “Reckless Endangerment” they will understand why there is a market for politicians like her. They’ll realize that if the existing leadership class doesn’t redefine “normal” behavior, some pungent and colorful movement will sweep in and do it for them.